The New Start Center (NSC) was founded on July 1, 2000, in St. Martinville, Louisiana. On September 28, 2000, the grand opening of NSC was held with local officials in attendance along with staff, board members and members of the community. Prior to this, the office was an outreach center as part of the SNAP Program and consisted of one office worker. Although this office operated for 6 years, outreach was limited due to lack of funds and staff. Services at the time involved obtaining temporary restraining orders, protective orders, and conducting one support group per week. The budget for this office was $31,000 a year and the center served 200+ women each year, many of whom did not have transportation to the shelter in New Iberia or Lafayette.
St Martin Parish is largely rural and is separated in many parts by water. Increase of staff and a shelter in the area were very important to meet the abuse survivor's needs. Members of the community who were concerned about Domestic Violence and who wanted to provide services began meeting in January, 2000, and each month thereafter. They eventually formed the first board. Deanna Fouin, Richard Keaveney, Paul Chastant, Virginia Yongue, Georgie Blanchard, Alice Ducote, Gloria Smith, Mark Finley, Larry Landry, Charlene LeBlanc and Edmonia Jackson were among the first to begin planning. The name, New Start Center, was selected. The focus was to create a business plan to obtain funding.
We were ably assisted by The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The Small Business Services helped to create a business plan to obtain funding. Deanna Fouin was instrumental in getting the names of two religious communities who provided funds for programs such as NSC. Grant applications were submitted, as well as requests to local businesses and New Start Center began operation on July 1, 2000.
Services increased and a staff of three persons was hired. A policies and procedures manual was created. Our first community fundraiser was held on April 28, 2001, and netted $44,000 in much needed operating funds. Over 255 women received services that year.
New Start Center Philosophy
We believe that all women, men and children have a right to be free of violence and a right to become self sufficient and independent. We are dedicated to eliminating violence that is targeted against women in society. Through the New Start Center, the staff works along with others to give the women a sense of worth, pride and ownership in the direction their lives will take. If they have the needed skills, counseling and training, then they will be empowered to live their lives free of violence.
New Start Center Goals
- To provide services which would enable survivors and their children to live in a safe environment and to provide the necessary support to be self sufficient and independent. It is the duty of this organization to serve all persons that have been abused, regardless of age, color, race, sex, national origin or handicap. Any adult survivor that has been physically, emotionally, mentally or sexually abused by a partner or family member is eligible for our services. If the children are abused along with their parent, children must be accompanied by their parent. The New Start Center will work with child protection services in the event that children have been abused. The New Start Center primarily serves St. Martin Parish. However, The New Start Center will accept any survivor from other areas/parishes. With The New Start Center, safety is the number one priority for all survivors.
- To continue to promote awareness of domestic violence, the effects of domestic violence and options available to survivors by speaking to women’s clubs, community organizations such as the Kiwanis or Rotary Clubs, schools at the Jr. High and High School levels, Vo-Tech where dating violence is discussed, and to church groups.
New Start Center’s Strategies
- Screening 20 - 25 NEW women per month who contact the New Start Center and determining which of the women qualify for a Protective Order. This number is based on statistics from the Center’s annual operation. A restraining order is filed. After the restraining order is filed, the survivor is guided through the judiciary process. Once the restraining order is received, the survivor remains in contact with the staff person who has assisted her through the process. She is encouraged to come to support group sessions. In the sessions, issues of self-esteem, addictive relationships, power and control are addressed
- Counseling survivors to make plans for safe housing for themselves and their children. The Center provides immediate safety if needed in New Start Center’s safe shelter. They are guided into making plans for permanent housing. Lists of rental assistance housing-apartments available in St. Martin Parish are provided. Staff works with survivors to call these places. Some of the survivors do not have access to telephones.
- Providing weekly appropriate age groups for the children of survivors.
- Providing transportation for survivors and their children to receive medical attention and to take care of personal needs such as providing clothing and other necessities.
- Helping survivors to apply with the appropriate agencies for food stamps, welfare, one month’s rent and utilities, and social security because of disabilities.
- Providing pro bono lawyers when legal aid is not able to assist.
- Assisting the survivor to file for child support with the Louisiana State Child Support Office when the spouse is in arrears with child support. Staff calls the Welfare Office to get survivor into the Welfare to Work program which would provide assistance in getting a job and babysitting services depending on the age of the children. Children must be preschool age for this service.
- Providing assistance in getting a GED or higher education. Staff contacts Vo-Tech for enrollment process and schedules. The registrar will work with them to fill out forms to get money for mileage, food, transportation if needed, as well as grants for babysitters. For survivors who wish to attend ULL (the University of Louisiana at Southwestern), the staff assists with the process of applying for Pell Grants and for low income housing on campus (Family Housing). If they fall under the qualification of disabled, their college education is paid for through Vocational Rehab and staff accompanies them to Vocational Rehab. All of the above is done to provide for the survivor to be independent and self sufficient.
- Printing a brochure that gives information about domestic violence, the services of the New Start Center and distributing it to various groups in the community, such as churches, organizations, women’s groups, law enforcement agencies. Staff members will arrange to speak before community groups and organizations, and churches about domestic violence, ways to recognize it, steps to take in getting out of a violent situation, the difference between being aggressive and assertive and how to use assertiveness when one is in a situation that is demeaning, as well as options available for assistance.