Archbold will soon be the home of a rehabilitation center for victims of domestic abuse.
The Village Council approved April 3 a Planning Commission recommendation to allow a village home to be used as a rehabilitation center by JJ’s SafeHouse. The new operation is an expansion for the young organization.
The site is at 404 Union St., and will be able to house three women and their children. There are several community rooms where all the residents will congregate, along with separate sleeping quarters. The group is not hiding the location and will rely on the local police for protection.
JJ’s SafeHouse was founded in 2015 with the goal of giving women in Fulton County in abusive relationships a way to freedom and a chance to break the cycle, founder Jennifer Panczyszyn said.
“I was raised in Lyons, Ohio, and my mother was a victim of domestic violence,” Panczyszyn said. “So we started the ball rolling.”
The group has received support from the Fulton County Sheriff, she said.
The organization is getting its message out that it a haven for abused women. In 2016, it housed six people in an emergency shelter (a hotel in Wauseon), she said.
“We have done six in the last three weeks, Panczyszyn said. “The word is getting out that we’re here to help.”
The house will be turned into a rehabilitation center for the women. The organization’s emergency shelters in Wauseon and other places will remain intact, Panczyszyn said.
The women who will reside at the Archbold house will first have to complete a three-page interview with a mental health counselor that will a board member and stationed at the house, Panczyszyn said. “They will have to go through with the interview project with a commitment; they will have to stay in that house for nine to twelve months,” Panczyszyn said. “We want to get them acclimated into the community.”
That will include lesson on finances, getting a job, parenting, and working with the local schools to make sure the kids are getting what they need, said.
“So when they leave our rehab place, they will able to stand on their own two feet, live in their own home, raise their kids and have some parenting skills,” Panczyszyn said.
The project to transform the site into the rehab center is in the hands of Con Keefer. He is a contractor (Keefer Building Company) with more than 30 years experience. The project will include making the home handicap-accessible and adding a security system. The home will not be hidden in any way, so the abusers can find it as well as the public, he said.
“We will be putting in a six-foot-high security fence around the perimeter,” Keefer said. “We will be renovating the first and second floors and the kitchen”. The work will include window treatment for privacy, painting the exterior, and new landscape. The group will comply with all rules, regulations and requirements Archbold has, Keefer said.
To keep the property in first-class shape, there will be weekly mowing and trimming, Keefer said. There will be regular maintenance on the home and it will be power washed once a year, he said. “We want to be good neighbors,” Keefer said. “In the end, (we will be) turning the families around, breaking the cycle of abuse.”
The property has a U-shaped driveway and the organization is trying to secure parking at a nearby factory, Keefer said. “We don’t want it to look like a car lot,” Keefer said.
The property will be open to the world because in today’s world people can be found if the searcher is persistent, Panczyszyn said. “We are going to work really close with the chief of Police to make sure they know who is in our house and what our goals our,” Panczyszyn said. “We will absolutely allow no men on that property, period.”
The strict nature of the policy shows how tightly structured the operation is going to be, Panczyszyn said. While other programs have similar approaches, no one in the area is anywhere near JJ’s SafeHouse, she said. “I told the chief of Police if things are going not the way we want them to – shut them down,” Panczyszyn said. “Our goal is to save the kids.”
If the organization can get in front of these people, she knows from personal experience it can happen, Panczyszyn said. “It happened to me; I broke the cycle,” Panczyszyn said. “My kids have never seen that; they don’t understand what that is. They are all college educated, they are successful adults. I was able to break the cycle because of the people I was surrounded with.” Her commitment is to the result, not to the process. So if the process isn’t working, she will shut the operation down and start over. “I have an amazing board that all have skin in the game,” Panczyszyn said.
Panczyszyn once thought that it would be 2020 before the group had a house, and now that dream will be fulfilled this fall. She is confident the Archbold site will set the pattern for making the rehab centers work.
The long-range goal is to maintain the emergency shelter in Wauseon and to have another rehab site between Delta and Swanton.
The organization has been privately funded, but a new marketing director will be going after corporate money. The hook will be the corporations have offenders and victims working for them, so shouldn’t they support the effort?
No public money has been sought or used by JJ’s, Panczyszyn said.