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SafeNest awarded $500K to expand domestic violence program

Updated May 29, 2020 - 9:23 am

A $500,000 grant awarded Thursday to SafeNest will fund a 24-hour expansion of Project Safe 417, a joint program with Las Vegas police designed to reduce domestic violence killings.

The award from Nevada Women’s Philanthropy comes at a time when calls to SafeNest’s 24-hour hotline have skyrocketed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the first week of Nevada’s initial emergence from the coronavirus-triggered shutdown, calls from domestic violence victims seeking resources jumped 70 percent. And Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo also has said that domestic violence calls jumped by at least 13 percent during the pandemic-triggered shutdown, which left many victims trapped at home with their abusers for nearly two months.

“We are honored to partner with SafeNest and are proud of their accomplishments today,” Sara Costello, president of the philanthropy organization, said during a virtual news conference Thursday. “We are especially proud of their collaboration with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in delivering this project.”

Project Safe 417, which was launched in December 2017, was one of the first programs of its kind in the nation to pair officers with advocates to counsel victims in the crucial moments after a crisis. The program — named for the Las Vegas police code for domestic violence — was first piloted in Metro’s northwest area command before its valleywide expansion in February.

But with a small team of just 17 advocates, the expansion into other parts of the valley was limited to a 5 p.m.-3 a.m. daily window.

Now, with the support of the grant and Nevada Women’s Philanthropy, SafeNest CEO Liz Ortenburger hopes to move to 24/7 coverage by March next year.

“Project Safe 417 is about saving lives. So often, victims of domestic violence are left on the scene of a 911 call with few resources to reach out to,” she said Thursday. “We know overwhelmingly that women and men who are victims of domestic violence that are escalating toward homicides do not reach out to agencies like ours out of fear, so when we can respond, alongside Metro to the scene, we are connecting them with life-saving resources.”

To get to 24-hour coverage, SafeNest will need to add three staff advocates and 200 to 500 volunteers to its existing team of advocates, according to Ortenburger.

In addition to the $500,000 investment, Nevada Women’s Philanthropy will work with SafeNest for the next three years to monitor the project’s success. During that time frame, SafeNest expects to serve more than 10,000 people through Project Safe 417.

The philanthropy group received 25 applications this year for its $500,000 grant — the largest sum awarded since 2005 when the organization was established. Three Square, a Las Vegas-based food bank, was a finalist.

To learn more about the grant or how to become a member of Nevada Women’s Philanthropy, visit www.nevadawomensphilanthropy.org. Information about becoming a SafeNest volunteer can be found at www.safenest.org/volunteer.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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