LA GRANDE — Local entities in La Grande recently received a crucial grant addressing domestic violence in the area, filling what would be a major void had the grant not been renewed.

The La Grande Police Department and local nonprofit Shelter From the Storm are recipients of an Office on Violence Against Women rural grant, which allows both organizations to fill a staff position directly related to domestic violence response.

“If it was not for this grant, we could not have the resources to have this position,” La Grande Police Chief Gary Bell said. “We’ve enjoyed that funding to have the position and we will be able to continue providing those services in the community.”

The OVW grant directly provides for the La Grande Police Department’s ability to employ a special victims detective, who works specifically in domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other interpersonal crimes. The grant is renewable on a three-year cycle.

According to Bell, the department will be able to better provide important services, due to the grant’s renewal.

“The position has greatly improved our ability to respond to these offenses,” he said.

Shelter From the Storm, a nonprofit organization in La Grande with a mission of helping victims of domestic violence, partnered with the La Grande Police Department in applying for the grant and allocating the funds.

The grant money will go toward the organization’s $750,000 budget, with an additional $200,000 for work dedicated to a sexual assault response team. Alongside the special victims detective, the organization is able to hire an advocate who serves as a liaison to the detective.

“If something particularly bad happens and we have a domestic violence situation, the officer can call in that advocate and have that person there right away to help those people who might not know what resources are available,” Shelter From the Storm Executive Director Jamie Landa said. “They might need an ear to listen to what’s been going on and give them some advocacy.”

In addition to the advocate position, Shelter From the Storm will use the funds to help pay for a counselor and an attorney. According to Landa, this can prove very useful in circumstances where a victim might not have the ability to hire a lawyer. The nonprofit will also be able to provide transitional housing in some cases, which allows victims a place to stay if they are unable to continue living in their own residence.

“If we have to help someone, we have multiple avenues because of this grant,” she said. “We can talk them through the whole process and be there every step of the way. We can make sure they feel supported.”

Bell noted that since being awarded the grant, the police department is moving forward in the process of selecting the special victims detective. He emphasized the importance of the detective position in the department’s mission in the community.

“We want to be able to provide the very best possible service in our community to victims of these crimes,” Bell said. “The fact that we have someone specifically dedicated to provide that support is satisfying.”

For Shelter From the Storm, the nonprofit is able to continue an essential partnership with law enforcement that would be significantly less viable without the positions afforded by the OVW grant.

“It allows us to do so many things for survivors,” Landa said. “This is going to be a huge grant for us. It’s going to cover almost everything we do.”

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