1. Catch the MAX or bus to 103rd and East Burnside, head through the parking lot past the police office to the new Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services. You can't miss it. A parade of political stars just cut its ribbon today. The grand opening of the $2 million center that has been a decade in the making was a major achievement for Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who secured a starter fund of $1.76 million plus $422,000 for annual operating costs from Portland's city budget. The backslapping was significant. "They're calling this the Gateway Center, but I think of it as the Dan Saltzman Center," said County Chair Jeff Cogen, who also said several insightful things, such as: "Because so much of the service delivery infrastructure came up when there was a sense of shame associated with domestic violence, a lot of the services for victims are quiet and hidden. We are saying it loud, we are saying it proud, we are here to help victims of domestic violence." The center is the only local domestic violence center with a published address: 10305 E Burnside.
2. Head inside the center to the bullet-proof reception area, speaking through the thick glass to an attendant. Fill out an intake form and sit around for a while. Don't worry, a sheriff's deputy is on site at all times. The funding for the center came from an effective partnership between the feds, state, county and city, including the sheriff's department who kicked in a full-time officer. That's good because no agency has the money to run a $2 million center on its own. Cogen noted that he's only been in office five months and he's cut the county budget three times.
3. In a little bit, a trained counselor (they're called "navigators" in the new center) will appear and take you into one of four interview rooms, mood-lit little boxes with sofas, tissues, and a pamphlet about violence. If you have kids, they can wait in the kids room and peruse the light reading.
4. If the navigator determines that you need a restraining order, fill out some paperwork that will be taken to the courthouse downtown. A Multnomah County Court judge hears restraining order and domestic violence cases every day at 1:30, so if you're lucky in your timing, you might be able to get one within hours. Otherwise, you'll have to wait a day. The court is busy. In the first four months of 2010, Portlanders reported 1,200 cases of domestic violence.
5. Leave the interview room and walk through the center's dorm-like lounges to the mock courtroom, which is adorned with an American flag, a podium and a color print-out of the state of Oregon seal. If front of you is a wide television set with a camera attached to it. Judge Maureen McKnight will flicker into view. She'll ask you a few questions and use the camera to zoom in on any evidence, like bruises, as center Executive Director Martha Strawn Morris demonstrates.
6. Boom, you're done. Previously, getting counseling, a restraining order, and legal help would require criss-crossing the city between bureaucracies. The new one-stop-shop center obviously fills a need: Even before it opened, women were literally banging on the door asking for help. The center has served 61 people before today. "These are really tough times and in tough times, it's important to celebrate good news when we get it," Cogen told a crowd of 150 who gathered for the first tour.
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