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Jan 31, 2013 1:00 AM by Danielle Lerner

New housing for domestic violence victims

TUCSON - Budget cuts are forcing many local organizations to get creative with their resources. The Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse is turning that economic turmoil into opportunity.

It is launching a new Housing First program to help survivors find stable housing. The program has been helping the homeless for years but it is still an innovative approach in the domestic violence field.

News 4 Tucson spoke with one abuse survivor, who asked us to conceal her identity. The mother of four suffered mental and physical abuse during her 14-year marriage.

"I had to leave town," she said. "He was in jail for a while, I mean to the point where I was just like, I'm not going to leave here alive."

When she left for good a few years ago she was able to stay with nearby family, but that is not always the case.

"For many, fleeing domestic violence equates to becoming homeless," said Emerge! COO Ed Mercurio-Sakwa.

The new program is modeled after a similar one in Portland, Oregon. A recent CDC study showed that program had an 82 percent success rate, results they are hoping to see in Tucson.

"We can essentially act as a bridge for folks who need to get that stability and permanent housing to start over again but might not have the financial resources, or might need some support in making that happen," said Mercurio-Sakwa.

By helping survivors find permanent, individidualized housing Emerge! is also saving money on its shelter-related services. Paying for utilities, food and around-the-clock staffing adds up, especially when entire families are staying there.

"I want to be the female role model that my girls look up to and say look it, my mom went through this but look at where she is now," one abuse survivor tells News 4. For her, a pathway to permanent housing was the final step toward freedom.

"I'm still not where I want to be but I'm getting there," she said.

Right now about two dozen families are enrolled in the program. Emerge! will continue staffing its emergency shelter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but fewer beds will be available.

If you or someone you know would like more information about Emerge! call their Crisis Line at 888.428.0101. You can also visit their web site here.

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