03/25/07 — Group: No shortage of victims of abuse

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Group: No shortage of victims of abuse

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 25, 2007 2:15 AM

It's unfortunate, Milton Costen said, but ever since the Wayne Uplift Resource Center stepped up earlier this year to fill the void left when The Lighthouse of Wayne County closed its doors, the demands on domestic violence programs have steadily increased.

Costen, who serves as program director, said the organization has had dozens of people come through its doors since Feb. 1.

Among those services offered at Wayne Uplift's 719 E. Ash St. location are the 24-hour hotlines, court advocacy programs, support groups and classes in anger management, parenting, abuser treatment and domestic violence victim empowerment.

All the services are offered in both English and Spanish, including the hotlines -- 736-1313 for English and 394-1621 for Spanish.

"In a lot of ways, some of these programs never stopped. I was doing them as a volunteer after the old organization stopped," Costen said.

And that, he explained, along with the assistance of the county government, has helped create a smooth transition of the programs from The Lighthouse to Wayne Uplift.

"It's been a lot of work -- a lot of hours," Costen said. "Because I worked with The Lighthouse, with my experience and expertise, I'm responsible for these programs."

Costen, a police officer for more than 20 years and an eight-year veteran of The Lighthouse, has been directly and indirectly involved with domestic violence for about 30 years.

When The Lighthouse closed, he said, Wayne County lost an important organization.

Now, he continued, the challenge is to make sure people know about Wayne Uplift and know that these programs are once again being offered.

"I think it hurt the community a lot," Costen said. "There's still probably a significant portion of the community who don't know there are new services being provided because of the closure of the old agency.

"We work every day to try to make sure people know that domestic violence services are being provided. That's one of the reasons we were so aggressive within the first week of officially opening the services, contacting people and letting them know there's someplace with these services."

What the organization doesn't have, however, is a safehouse.

The one being operated by The Lighthouse closed when the organization shut down in December and has not re-opened.

Currently, the county is working to take over the title of that building.

"It's going through the legal process now," Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said.

He's hoping that the shelter's doors will open sometime this spring, but added it would definitely be operational by July 1.

He explained that once the county takes ownership of the building officials likely will lease it to Wayne Uplift for $1 a year.

In the interim, Wayne Uplift is working with shelters in surrounding counties to place victims and is offering some short-term housing.

Getting the shelter back open, though, is something Wayne Uplift executive director Linda Holden-Cox said she's really looking forward to.

"We really are hopeful we will have something to open at least by July 1," she said.

She also was confident that Uplift will be able to maintain the financial viability of its current programs.

"At this point, we feel comfortable," Mrs. Holden-Cox said. "We're in the process of submitting grant applications for the next fiscal year and the previous funders are giving us the opportunity to submit applications to draw down funds to close out this fiscal year."

Already, the county has given Wayne Uplift about $18,000 and The United Way of Wayne County has supplied another $23,000 to get the programs started.

Wayne Uplift also will have a gospel concert fundraiser at 6 p.m. today at The Lord's Table at 1215 Parkway Drive in Goldsboro, featuring Worship Leader Mitch Ham and The Lord's Table Orchestra and Singers, The Prodigal Sons, D.J. Coles and The Banks Family. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased either at the door or by calling 736-1313 or 735-4262.