The Hillsdale City Council recently approved funding for Domestic Harmony.
(Photo: Wiki­media)

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.”