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Woodbridge takes stand on providing housing for domestic violence victims

WOODBRIDGE – The township is in the process of allocating eight apartment units for domestic violence victims, which will make Woodbridge stand at the forefront of providing housing for those in need.

Currently there are only 14 apartments dedicated for domestic violence victims throughout the entire state, according to Walter Pearson, coordinator of the Woodbridge Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT).

The housing units are for survivors who are going through rigorous training to get them back on their feet, whether it’s learning personal skills, getting an education or getting them back into the workplace, he explained.

With just 14 apartments, Pearson said officials “don’t put enough effort into the survivors and victims of domestic violence.”

That is why donations such as the recent $30,000 donation from the Ladies of the Colonia Country Club is important. Mayor John E. McCormac recognized the group for the donation before a Township Council meeting on Nov. 9 as they presented the donation to the Woodbridge DVRT.

“Thankfully the Colonia Country Club women have given us seed money that we are going to use to help get us on our way for providing housing,” Pearson said. “Also, donations will go towards immediate needs. We have folks who come in with nothing but clothes on their back and a couple bucks in their pocket. They have no place to go and they’re terribly frightened.”

The donations allow the DVRT to coordinate hotel room stays and make sure people have meals and gift cards for the local supermarket.

“That’s what we do,” Pearson said.

Marguerite Connelly of the Ladies of the Colonia Country Club said they wanted to do something for the community.

“We decided to hold a fundraiser, an event that was fun for us, but gave back to the community,” she said.

The event was a hoedown fundraiser.

“Everyone got dressed up … we made baskets that we raffled off,” Connelly said, adding her husband matched the funds that were raised.

Connelly said a few years ago, the group helped fundraise $10,000 for substance abuse housing by making Thanksgiving baskets. This year, they decided to raise funds for the Woodbridge DVRT.

“That’s going to be our annual cause moving forward,” she said, noting they can’t wait for next year’s luau.

The Woodbridge DVRT provides training for domestic violence teams throughout the county. Training involves 40 hours, which officials said is a significant commitment. The team has about 25 volunteers, who live in the township.

“All the people are giving back to the community,” Pearson said, adding people take on 12-hour shifts. “We can be called out at 2 in the morning. We have Thanksgiving coming up and holidays. There is no guarantee if you are on call, that you’re not going to be called in to help somebody within our community.”

Domestic abuse affects 1 out of 4 women over a course of a lifetime, Pearson said.

“It’s not just physical,” he said. “We talk about PEEPS, in terms of domestic violence, [which stands for] Physical, Emotional, Economic, Psychological and Sexual abuse. One of the questions we often get asked by outside people is ‘Why do they stay?’ and the biggest reason is they have no place to go. They can go to a shelter for 30 to 90 days, but what do they do after? They wind up staying with friends or with family and that only causes more issues within that circle.”

Pearson said they do what they do with the support of the mayor, his administration, the council, the police department and the community.

Along with outside donations, the township allocates $25,000 in its annual budget for the DVRT, McCormac said.

For more information visit www.woodbridgedvrt.org.

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