Family Justice Center in Tampa to close - WFLA News Channel 8

Family Justice Center in Tampa to close

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Family Justice Center on N. Florida Ave. had its last day of services July 31 Family Justice Center on N. Florida Ave. had its last day of services July 31
Nikki Daniels, Executive Director of the Family Justice Center Nikki Daniels, Executive Director of the Family Justice Center
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The Family Justice Center on North Florida Avenue has provided various services to victims of domestic violence since October 2006.  Now, its doors are closing.

"It's heartbreaking," said executive director Nikki Daniels.

Daniels says one of the Center's sources of funding shifted focus from victims of domestic violence to children.  That financial loss amounted to more than $300,000, or almost one-third of the budget.  It's money the Center hasn't been able to make up in the current economy.

"We have been as lean as we possibly could be.  We cut a lot to try to be able to stay open, and we just haven't been able to make it enough," Daniels said. 

According to the Center's website:  "FJC is part of The President's Family Justice Center Initiative, and is one of 15 sites around the nation, and the only site in Florida. Hillsborough County was awarded a federal grant for the planning, development, and establishment of a Family Justice Center modeled after San Diego's pilot Family Justice Center".

One of the biggest advantages of the Center, says Daniels, is that it provided many things under one roof, from group therapy to housing to legal services. 

"For a victim, it takes courage ... to walk in one door for help," Daniels says. "It's hard, it's scary. So this way they only have to walk in our one door, they don't have to walk in a whole bunch of doors in all different parts of town."

Daniels fears people who may still be traumatized by abuse will now have to seek help over and over.

"It's not as convenient, and it's not as safe," says Daniels.

It will take several weeks to fully clean out the building.  If someone comes to the Center seeking help during that time, Daniels says they will be referred to The Spring of Tampa Bay. 

Daniels says the Family Justice Center is recognized by the Department of Justice as a national model for "the best way to serve victims of domestic violence".  She calls it "foolish" that the community has invested $8 million dollars in the Center, only to have it close because of a much smaller shortfall.

"We're still short $170,000, so we were able to raise $130,000, so hopefully there's someone out there who'd like to step up and support us, because this is something we could happily turn back around again," Daniels said.

The Family Justice Center has served more than 11,000 families in its 7 years.  Because it is such a small operation, Daniels met many clients personally.  She says the thing she heard most from victims was that the Center gave them hope.

"We treated them with respect, and kindness, that we gave them a path," said Daniels.  "People usually come here not knowing what their options are, and we can really help them understand."

Some of the Center's partners will continue to operate at the North Florida location up until August 9th.

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