DA unveils One Safe Place — a new center in North County for victims of violence
One Safe Place opens July 5 in San Marcos to serve victims of violence
From the outside, One Safe Place is a nondescript commercial building tucked behind a retail store in San Marcos. But inside, it’s a place of of healing and hope for victims of violence.
The new, 40,000-square-foot facility is where service groups will come together to provide help for anyone affected by family or domestic violence, child or elder abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking or hate crimes.
The groups are expected to provide acute crisis care and forensic medical exams, counseling and therapy, as well as connections to safe shelter and housing to those in need. Providers can also connect clients with assistance for filing restraining orders, mentoring, educational and employment opportunities, and basic needs like clothing.
The facility, called One Safe Place — The North County Family Justice Center, officially opens July 5. A ribbon-cutting was held Thursday morning.
One Safe Place is a project led by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and features more than 70 providers who have signed on to help.
“It’s hard to imagine there is something that a victim or survivor needs that isn’t going to be met,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said in an interview last week.
“What I have never liked is when you talk about hope without giving people a reality of hope — of things that are concrete, that are going to help lift them out of the despair, " she said. “This will help do that.”
For years, downtown San Diego has had a Family Justice Center (now called Your Safe Place) that served the county. Stephen said such centers are considered a “best practice,” and the data showed a need for a site in North County.
North County is home to about a million people, roughly a third of the county’s population.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, more than half the reports of elder abuse between July 2014 and June 2017 were in North County. In 2019, six of the region’s 13 domestic violence homicides occurred there.
From July 2019 to June 2020, Child Welfare Services received 38,653 hotline reports of abuse or neglect, representing nearly 69,000 children. More than a quarter of that number — roughly 18,800 children — lived in North County.
“I think we are going to burst from the seams when we open, there is so much need for it,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Tracy Prior, a veteran prosecutor who has spent decades working with victims of family violence. She guided the creation of the site, which she expects will serve hundreds of people each month.
There are no barriers to receiving service. Victims can show up and get help without having to report a crime.
Palomar Health, with its nationally accredited child advocacy center, is one of the anchor partners, and its work will include forensic medical exams and interviews of child victims.
“We’re here to help you heal. We’re here to move all of the barriers out of the way,” said Sheila Brown, chief operating officer at Palomar Health. “We are going to get you to a road of recovery where you are a survivor.”
She said putting many services in one place serves the whole family. “That’s the uniqueness of this partnership ,” she added. “We are able to provide wraparound services to seek to break the cycle and prevent future violence.”
Everything in One Safe Place is intentional, according to the District Attorney’s Office, from white noise to subtly color-coded carpet, from murals of bamboo for its association with resiliency, to hints of pyramids in some décor — a pyramid symbolic as a solid structure that survives centuries.
Prior said the idea is to be inviting to clients — who are referred to as “members” or “guests.”
“If it’s sterile, you won’t want to lean into it,” Prior said. “We want people to come back multiple times.”
This place provides more than acute care. Here, people can take yoga or a cooking class, use a computer, maybe get a haircut from a volunteer stylist. There’s a “store” with donated but new clothes — tags still on — which can be meaningful for a person’s dignity.
The hours are planned to be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, and four hours Saturday mornings. The center will also provide free rides to and from the center for clients who ask.
One Safe Place is the kind of place Isabel Rosales, 39, said saved her as she clawed back her life, physically and metaphorically, after she was attacked in 2018. Her then husband plunged a knife into her neck twice. She lost a lot of blood, and spent four days in the ICU.
She fought to move forward after her 17-year marriage ended, she said. Her former spouse was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison. She had to prove to a judge that she could provide a safe home for her children, whom authorities had taken from her after the attack in the family’s San Diego home.
She received help from the Family Justice Center in San Diego.
“It made me feel like I was safe,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about anything. I couldn’t think of all the questions, they asked me the questions. I don’t know what I need. I just know that I am free. I just want to make sure he doesn’t get out and my kids are safe.”
She said it “takes a whole community to support a survivor.” For her that included the Family Justice Center, her church and her “work family.”
Four years later, she said, “I am at a place where it is peaceful. I’m on this journey of self healing and self love.”
And she has her children back.
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