Despite debate, the Hillsdale City Council passed a resolution to renew funding for Domestic Harmony in the 2017 fiscal year at a March 20 meeting.
Domestic Harmony is a domestic violence victim provider, and offers free shelter and assistance to men, women, and children who have suffered domestic abuse in the City of Hillsdale, as well as to residents of the township and county. This support also includes counseling and legal aid for victims.
Executive Director Julia Denig requested $5,000 from the city council for 2017 because Domestic Harmony is the only service of its kind in the city and works closely with local law enforcement to help victims of domestic violence. Denig said although the service only employs nine people, volunteers from both the community and Hillsdale College provide aid to victims.
“We change lives and possibly even save lives,” she said.
Police Chief Scott Hephner said Domestic Harmony helps victims of domestic abuse in ways police officers cannot because it offers long-term care. He said he is comfortable taking people in need to the safehouse because he knows Domestic Harmony will be able to handle the problem.
“It goes unspoken — it’s an absolute asset to the community,” Hephner said.
Despite the help it gives the community, City Councilman Patrick Flannery opposed funding Domestic Harmony because he said cities cannot enter into contracts in which the services provided are free.
Flannery also said he opposed funding an organization that was not strictly a city government entity.
“We have to look at our other departments here,” he said. “I’m sure if we asked every department if they could use that $5,000, each budget manager would say yes.”
Councilman Bill Zeiser said he agreed with Flannery’s view, but that he thinks the reality of domestic abuse means the city should support Domestic Harmony.
“I think it’s clear through the Chief that this is an extension of law enforcement in a sense. I don’t like it philosophically, but I could never vote against it,” Zeiser said.
Zeiser is among several city councilmen who have visited Domestic Harmony’s facility within the past month.
Councilman Bruce Sharp, who also visited the facility, said the cleanliness and order made him confident Domestic Harmony is using city funds responsibly to care for victims of domestic abuse.
“If you don’t go there you would never know what it’s there for,” he said.
Sharp also said that regardless of philosophical concerns council members might have, domestic abuse cannot be overlooked in the Hillsdale community.
“It’s very concerning that we have to have something like this, but we have to. Because it does happen,” he said. “I wish we didn’t have to have this, but this is the real world.”