AG Coffman pays visit to Glenwood safehouse
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is looking to organizations like the Advocate Safehouse Project in Glenwood Springs to provide a template for domestic violence prevention efforts in the state.
Coffman was in town Friday to visit the local safehouse shelter, where survivors of domestic violence and their children can seek haven from their abusers while concentrating on getting their lives back together.
“One of the areas I have chosen to focus on as attorney general is domestic violence and sex assault prevention services,” said Coffman, a Republican who took office in January.
“Our goal is to visit with the people who have a real understanding like none of us can about what is needed at the local level and to identify some of the gaps where we can be helpful,” she said.
“This is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit a shelter,” added Coffman, who was able to meet privately with one of the safehouse residents during the visit and hear about her struggles.
Coffman and the director of her new Office of Community Engagement, José Esquibel, also met with the Safehouse Project staff to learn about some of the trends and challenges in this particular area.
Among those challenges is housing and the cost of living in general in Garfield County as victims try to get back on their feet, according to Crystal Young, advocacy coordinator for the organization.
“Housing is certainly an issue for our clients, and can be a financial barrier for them,” Young said, adding it has resulted in extended stays for those utilizing the safehouse.
“We want to be able to set people up for success after they leave here, not failure,” she said. Housing is a big part of that, she said.
Another obstacle is the cost of legal representation in divorce cases where domestic violence is an issue, and getting judges to understand the issue, said Julie Olson, longtime director of the Advocate Safehouse Project.
The organization is also working to raise awareness through programs such as “Coaching Boys to Men,” which reaches out to high school coaches to teach their young male athletes about healthy relationships, teen dating and respect for their female peers.
“The idea is to instill lifelong traits and about proper interpersonal relationships … things they can take with them for the rest of their lives,” said Sarah Buckley, community education advocate for the Safehouse Project.
Another model that could be duplicated elsewhere in Colorado is the Garfield County Domestic Violence Coalition, which brings together human service providers, law enforcement representatives and others to talk about and organize training around domestic violence issues.
“Domestic violence is one of the most reported crimes,” Olson said. Yet, when it comes to the criminal justice system, “the importance is not always there.”
Coffman said one of the goals of the outreach program is to provide more awareness programs and training opportunities across the state.
Clean power challenge
Coffman also took some time during her visit to discuss with the Post Independent her recent decision to join in a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
“This is about federal authority being used to pass these new regulations, not only with caps on emissions but on the entire power grid in these affected states,” Coffman said.
“It’s a classic states’ rights and federal authority issue,” she said. “The states that are challenging this feel the federal government is overreaching into state authority.”
Earlier this week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he would ask the state Supreme Court to give an opinion on whether Coffman has the legal authority to join the 24-state challenge to the EPA plan.
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