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INDIANAPOLIS — The city of Indianapolis has tragically faced another record-breaking year when it comes to homicides in Indianapolis, with more than 260 lives lost since the start of 2021.

As the year comes to an end, the city announced it has committed more than $2.8 million in the latest round of community crime prevention grants to fight violence.

“The dollars in our community support our community supporting each other,” said Lauren Rodriguez, director of the Office of Public Health and Safety. “It not only helps with violence reduction, but it also helps our IMPD officers that are out in the streets, the faith-based organizations, the children that are out in the community.”

The Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) and the City of Indianapolis made the announcement that more than 30 organizations will receive a total of $2,897,000 through the Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program for projects that aim to develop and implement integrated, evidence-based practices to prevent and reduce crime in Indianapolis.

The grants are administered by the Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of CICF, and funding is allocated annually by the City-County Council.

“These people are working day-in and day-out for these things, reducing violent crime, connecting people with the services, making sure that everybody has equitable and equal access to the things that they need,” Rodriguez said.

New to this year’s program was additional funding from the City to support community programming initiatives that focus on areas like domestic violence reduction, youth mental health and early intervention that helps support juveniles.

“The community — they are telling us what they need,” said Rodriguez.

“Domestic violence, mental health, food insecurity, all of that, those are root causes of crime. Those are root causes of instability in our communities and investing those dollars in those areas is crucial if we want to see a change. Those things have been going on for a long time. I think the pandemic exacerbated those,” said Rodriguez.

One of the organizations that will receive funding through the grant program is the Domestic Violence Network (DVN).

“The purpose of our grant is to provide self-sufficiency funds for victims of domestic violence who are trying to exit or flee a relationship and to help them obtain or maintain self-sufficiency,” said Kelly McBride, DVN’s Executive Director.

“We have to be able to give them whatever it is that they need at that moment to be able to safely and sustainably exit a relationship,” said McBride.

According to the announcement made by the City, the DVN will receive $105,500 in funding through the grant program. City violence prevention grant records show this is the most significant award received by the nonprofit to date.

“We will fly through this money. This $105,000 will be gone by I would say February,” said McBride.

Right now, McBride said their biggest need continues to be housing. It’s where most of their money goes towards. Those who are helped with funds through the DVN first must connect with an advocate.

“We are not a direct services organization. You have to work with Children’s Bureau/Families First, Silent No More, Coburn Place, Julian Center, one of our partner organizations that does do advocacy work,” said McBride. “They will assess your needs, figure out what you need help with. It could be since our shelters are full — they’re always full — it could be a month in a hotel room, which we will pay for as well as food for a month, or it could be first month’s rent and a deposit that we would pay for, or it could be childcare.”

“It’s whatever that individual person needs to help them obtain or maintain self-sufficiency and it’s so individualized and it looks different for everyone,” said McBride.

McBride also reminds that interpersonal violence, or domestic violence, can take many forms.

“Domestic violence is emotional, it’s mental, it’s religious, it’s sexual and it’s financial. So if your partner is not allowing you work or is taking your money and controlling it, and you have no access to that, that is domestic violence,” she said.

She wants people in the community to know that there are resources out there to support you if you find yourself in a situation facing interpersonal violence.

“It is so important though to work with an advocate because domestic violence homicide does increase by over 70% when you are exiting a domestic violence relationship,” said McBride.

One of those advocates in the community is Danyette Smith, founder of Silent No More, Inc. For the first time ever, her community organization will receive a grant through the program to help support its continued efforts, in the amount of $81,400.

Smith said she is extremely grateful Silent No More was selected as a grant recipient.

“Being able to have those funds will really allow us to push more information into the community and to the doorsteps of those who are facing intimate partner violence,” said Smith. “That will be used for emergency shelter placement. You know that our emergency shelter is 99.9, majority of the time 100% full, so we want to make sure that they do have other places to be able to call and the benefit of that is after hours.”

Smith recognizes that when a person needs to leave a situation, they need to be able to access resources that are available to them at all hours.

“A lot of organizations they close at four or five, so to know that there is an after hours or weekend services that makes it available for those who may need to flee at 2 a.m. or flee on a Sunday, that that is available for them to flee in those emergency situations, so we definitely want to cover them in that emergency shelter placement,” she said.

“It’s not just something that we want to take you out of a situation and then leave you. That’s what the problem is majority of the times. We want to make sure not only do we remove you from that situation, but also set you up with a plan so that you can have self-sufficiency and not go back,” said Smith.

Smith is a survivor of domestic violence herself. She said she feels the grant money will go a long way when it comes to providing resources for people facing domestic violence in the Indianapolis community — something she sees daily.

“The phone rings every day. Every single day,” said Smith. “Unfortunately COVID-19 was one of those that really pulled the scab off the sore for them to understand the how bad of a community health problem that this is for the community.”

According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, since the start of 2021, there have been 5,912 cases assigned to the Domestic Violence Unit. In the same time period of 2020, there were 5,456 cases.

“Domestic homicides have increased over 100% in the past year,” said McBride.

“We are still feeling the effects of the quarantine and lockdown that happened almost two years ago. People lost their jobs and that is still being felt with the recession today. There is such a need for this, and we are so thrilled that CICF recognized that,” McBride said.

She said the work that is being done by advocates and organizations that work to intervene and help provide resources for people who are in domestic violence situations, is crucial.

“Until we have safe households, we’re not going to have safe streets,” said McBride.

“My heart goes out to anybody who’s been faced with those traumas throughout this time. I’m also very hopeful now that investments in the community that are coming out of the dollars help make sure that that stuff doesn’t continue going on and making sure that we fill in those gaps where we didn’t realize there were gaps that were there,” said Rodriguez.

In September, City-County councilors unanimously approved the first half of the money from the American Rescue Plan to go toward Mayor Joe Hogsett’s three-year anti-violence plan, including $150 million of federal funding towards curbing crime.

$45 million of those dollars will be allocated over the next three years to grassroots funding, meaning grants will increase from around $3 million per year to $15 million per year, for the next three years.

“Our communities have needed this money for a very, very long time and I’m really, really excited to see what comes from all of these dollars going out to the community, to the grassroot orgs getting them more involved, giving them some ability that they’ve never had before to invest in themselves and invest in their programs to make it even more worthwhile to give dollars to” said Rodriguez.

“Even though the larger organizations are able to provide some of the things that are needed, being able to provide some of the grassroots organization that’s connecting directly with those clients in their community, or their environment is a huge thing,” said Smith.

When asked how the city plans to measure how these organizations are putting the money towards the projects they said they intend to, Rodriguez said there are metrics and measurements in place to hold the organizations accountable.

“We are very critical of the way that we’re giving out the dollars and we have teams of people that are collecting the data and making that available to the public so that they can see that these dollars are being utilized in a great way, but also an effective way,” said Rodriguez. “Our goal is to show the same trend that Oakland showed. It took over a 6-year period, right, it declined. We’re hoping that our data will show the exact same thing. It will need to be looked at every year and not every day.”

Application deadlines for the increased 2022 grant funding have not yet been announced. City officials said they plan to announce those in early 2022. You can visit this link and sign up to be notified when more information is available.

Domestic violence resources in the community

“There is a possibility for you to be able to escape that domestic violence. We will not only allow you to get out of that domestic violence, but you know, also work on that plan,” said Smith.

“Everyone deserves a safe and healthy and happy home is what I would say to anyone who is experiencing domestic violence, interpersonal violence that is watching this right now,” said McBride. “You’re not alone. There are resources available. You don’t have to stay in this relationship by any means.”

For people in domestic violence situations in need of help, there are several resources in the Indianapolis area that you can reach out to for assistance, including:

Look for the quick escape or exit button in the corner of these websites if you need to exit abruptly for your safety.

You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 (SAFE) or visit their website to learn more.