STEPS has questions

Published 6:44 pm Sunday, August 6, 2023

By Olivia Hayes 

The K-V Dispatch

Individuals and families who have experienced domestic violence are still without a local program and shelter after nine months. So where are they supposed to go?

Since Madeline’s House closed in November, Virginia’s Heartland-Southside region has been without adequate resources for sexual and domestic violence survivors. STEPS, which currently serves as the Community Action Agency for Prince Edward and surrounding counties, has offered a helping hand to aid victims in the wake of Madeline’s House’s absence. 

“This situation has come to us within the last year. We were getting a good share of those calls and those situations being brought to our attention,” Shawn Rozier, STEPS’ Vice President of Housing, said.

On Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the state’s Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance will host a meeting at Farmville’s Robert Russa Moton Museum to learn more about the region’s needs and to establish an organization to provide those services.

What does STEPS do?

STEPS primarily assists with housing, aiding those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless find and retain housing. However, since their undertaking of sexual and domestic violence, STEPS hopes they will be designated to run the program for this region.

“Officially, we are not the domestic violence, sexual assault victim provider in the region yet. We are pursuing that,” Rozier said.

As the Alliance runs the statewide hotline for victims, STEPS has financially aided people who call the hotline by securing transportation for individuals to get to a domestic violence shelter in the state and by temporarily housing individuals in hotels until a spot in a shelter opens up.

Rozier previously mentioned that STEPS tackles several situations each week. That number has remained constant, despite STEPS not being advertised as a sexual and domestic violence provider. 

Though STEPS has contributed significant efforts to ensure safety and has received support and contributions from the counties, it is not enough to combat the needs of the area. The upcoming meeting looks to address these needs and seeks input from the community on how to increase services and necessities.

STEPS already has a plan in place to revive and expand the program.

“We received a generous donation from Ellery and Robin Sedgwick to purchase the shelter facility … in mid-June. We now own the shelter facility and that was very important,” Rozier said.

The shelter – which is gearing up to reopen Oct. 1 – will remain Madeline’s House but will offer more services than just physical safety for sexual and domestic violence survivors. STEPS hopes and plans to implement other programs to aid the community to a larger extent, including a sexual assault response program with Centra Southside Community Hospital. They also plan on recruiting trained volunteers who will accompany women to the emergency room and provide moral and emotional support while the patients undergo examinations. 

Furthermore, STEPS wants to raise prevention and education services in the region, as well as create their own hotline for individuals to reach them directly.

Rozier emphasized the importance and cruciality of this meeting and what it means for the Heartland region. 

“This meeting is an important step for our region to focus primarily on the needs of the victims in our area. These are critical services for safety that we need to have here in our community, so it’s important that we as a region come together to provide this for vulnerable victims.”

The Aug. 18 meeting welcomes members of the community to attend and support the growth of sexual and domestic violence resources. Rozier requests that anyone who plans on attending the meeting should email him at srozier@steps-inc.org so they can accommodate space for everyone. There are no current plans to broadcast the meeting.