The One Place Metropolitan Family Justice Center is renovating a Southside building to serve as their new office. One Place, which brings together representatives of the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the Birmingham Police Department, the YWCA of Central Alabama and the Crisis Center, Inc. to provide victims of domestic violence greater access to counseling and legal resources, currently operates four days a week out of the District Attorney’s office.
Having their own building will provide many benefits to the One Place staff, said Allison Dearing, the center’s executive director, including allowing One Place to run the full five-day work week.
When the 5,800-square-foot building is complete, each of the four partner organizations will have a dedicated work area in which to provide their particular services. The YWCA staff will have a suite for their lawyers and court advocates, the Crisis Center’s counselors will occupy their own room, and the assistant district attorney who will be assigned to work at One Place will have his or her own office in the rear of the building. Members of the Birmingham Police Department will operate out of a security station so that they can ensure the safety of the facility and take criminal reports should victims wish to make them.
Having all these legal resources in one location will help victims navigate the complex legal maze of reporting and prosecuting cases against their abusers, said Meg McGlamery, executive director of Crisis Center, Inc., and even those individuals who do not want to press charges will have ready access to psychological counseling and support.
Having representatives of all four organizations has the added benefit of allowing them to work together and learn from each other, said Dearing. “Everyone brings a different lens [to cases of domestic violence]. A counselor sees things differently than a police officer or an attorney. My dream is to ultimately do cross-training,” she explained.
In addition to the partner organizations’ workspaces, the new building will also have a playroom for children to enjoy while their parents are meeting with advocates and counselors. The playroom will have glass walls so that the parents can keep an eye on the children while having conversations with legal advocates and counselors that they would not want their children to hear.
In addition to the possibilities offered by the expanded facilities, the new location has the added benefit of being close to UAB—the building is about a block away from the University’s Highlands Hospital. Close proximity to medical care is obviously useful for victims of domestic violence, Dearing said, adding that she hoped eventually to have a nurse examiner from UAB working full-time at the new building. She also expressed excitement about the chance to work with students, noting that even though the building is not finished, several members of the student community have come by and expressed their interest in volunteering with One Place.
Dearing said that the enthusiasm of the students to help reflects the generosity that the entire Birmingham community has shown to One Place’s efforts. The United Way sold the building—which used to be an overnight shelter operated by Pathways — to One Place for the sum of $1, and the Junior League awarded the center a grant to refurbish it. After One Place publicly announced plans to move to the new location, they received additional support from the Verizon Wireless HopeLine program and from the Alabama Power Foundation.
Dearing singled out Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls as being instrumental in facilitating the move to the new location. Falls, who serves as chair of the One Place board of directors, “has been a champion for the Family Justice Center,” said Dearing. The district attorney has consistently pushed One Place to expand its services and helped the center get zoning clearance for the new building from the city.
Even beyond the institutional support, Dearing said, many individuals and businesses have donated money, supplies, and time to help refurbish the building. “It’s been like a shot in the arm for us,” Dearing said.
While renovations are ongoing, One Place still needs to raise about $50,000 to complete the restoration. If you are interested in donating materials or money to One Place’s construction efforts, please contact Allison Dearing at firstname.lastname@example.org.