The Hillsdale City Council voted to renew its con­tract with Domestic Harmony at Monday night’s meeting. | Facebook

Hillsdale’s City Council voted unan­i­mously to renew its con­tract with Domestic Harmony at Monday night’s meeting, but not without con­cerns being raised about Hillsdale County con­tributing its fair share to the organization. 

Domestic Harmony is a local domestic vio­lence shelter that pro­vides housing, coun­seling, and legal coun­seling to Michigan res­i­dents in need. All ser­vices pro­vided by the shelter are free and confidential.

One point of con­tention during the dis­cussion sur­rounding the renewal of the con­tract is the respon­si­bility of other com­mu­nities to assist in sup­porting the funding of the service. 

“I think the county needs to step up and sharpen their pencils and they need to give us funding. It is a service for everybody, not just the city but the county and they have an oblig­ation to support it,” Coun­cilman Greg Stuchell said. 

Domestic Harmony has pro­vided service to Hillsdale County for 41 years. This is the 18th year that the 501(c)(3) non­profit has had a con­tract with Hillsdale’s City Council. 

During the COVID-19 pan­demic, the shelter had a noticeable increase in need from the Hillsdale County com­munity, namely in the number of crises and infor­mation calls to the shelter’s hotline. 

“In the fiscal year 2019 we were in the 300 – 400 mark and now we’re at 792,” Exec­utive Director Hannah Jordan said. “The other thing that increased this year was per­sonal pro­tection orders. I believe we did 36 per­sonal pro­tection orders in the fiscal year 2019 and we did 63 last year.” 

In addition, Domestic Harmony pro­vided safe shelter for 37 adults and 20 children as well as served 127 adults and six children for sup­portive coun­seling during 2020, according to Jordan. 

While Domestic Harmony gets funding from local grants and fundraising as well as federal and state funding, it also relies heavily on service con­tracts with the city of Hillsdale. 

Domestic Harmony’s data shows domestic vio­lence is affecting children in the community. 

Jordan said that of the 146 stu­dents in local schools that took the survey, 27% of stu­dents saw domestic vio­lence in their homes, 41% have wit­nessed teen dating vio­lence and 20% said they were victims of teen dating violence. 

Last year the service con­tract passed on a 7 – 1 vote, with Coun­cilman Ray Briner being the no vote in an effort to send a message to other munic­i­pal­ities in the area to help out in funding Domestic Harmony. 

The shelter addressed this issue during its 2020 fundraising cycle. 

“We took that concern and the board members and I went to as many township meetings and city meetings as we could and we were able to increase the other munic­i­pality service con­tracts by 26% last year,” Jordan said. 

These efforts were much appre­ciated by the council. 

“I was the no vote last year,” Coun­cilman Briner said.  “I am in favor of it this year and I’m glad that other com­mu­nities have stepped up and pro­vided more funding to you.”

Another concern was Domestic Harmony’s pro­viding service to those in need from across the state. 

Jordan addressed these con­cerns and said that due to COVID-19 the shelter is only serving res­i­dents of Hillsdale County. However, the shelter always gives pref­erence towards Hillsdale County res­i­dents, according to Jordan.

“The reason why we are adamant about that is for this reason right here, Jordan said. “You have a service con­tract with us.” She also said that because the program was designed with Hillsdale res­i­dents in mind, it does a better service to those residents. 

“We could easily fill up through Jackson, from Jackson County res­i­dents. I would say we probably get three or more calls a week from their shelter over in Jackson because they are full. And it’s just really doing a dis­service to people from out of town,” Jordan said. “Hillsdale’s a lot dif­ferent than Detroit and people don’t realize that. And we want to be the best that we can be in the service that we provide. If you don’t have trans­portation and you are from Detroit, you’re not going to expe­rience quite the same thing that you could over there.” 

Mayor Stockford addressed the impor­tance of Domestic Harmony to Hillsdale right before the service con­tract went to the vote. 

“I’ll say for the first couple years I was on the council I voted against the con­tract because I feel like it’s kind of murky waters as far as what gov­ernment could and should do,” Stockford said. “But actually after having con­ver­sa­tions with our police chief I came to a much better under­standing of how our police force uti­lizes Domestic Harmony and what could pos­sibly happen if Domestic Harmony wasn’t available: a lot of bat­tered women and children who would end up in probably county jail or just on the street with nowhere to go.”