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Attorney General Eric Holder at a Press Conference at the SHAWL House in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif. ~ Thursday, July 16, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Kim, for that kind introduction. Thank you also to Becky Clark, Chair of the Board of SHAWL House, and Jim Howat, Director of Recovery, Corrections and Residential Services for Volunteers of America LA, for your leadership and hard work on behalf of Volunteers of America.

It is my pleasure to be here today to announce the very first award under the Office on Violence Against Women’s Transitional Housing Assistance Program. Before coming to Los Angeles, I had heard great things about the work you do here at SHAWL House, and the tour I just took and conversations with the residents and employees here confirmed everything I was told and more.

As a result of the extraordinary work you do here on behalf of the women and after an extremely competitive process, I am pleased to be here today to announce the first grant – for $500,000 – to Volunteers of America of Los Angeles in support of the SHAWL House.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women with $225 million, for grants to expand efforts to combat violence against women, and just as importantly, to invest in the lives of those who have been victimized and remain vulnerable. The grant we are delivering today to the SHAWL House, and the women these funds will help, is a concrete example of the Recovery Act at work.

Every woman who relies upon the SHAWL House has a compelling story to tell. I want to share with you just one story – the story of a woman named Gabby. Gabby grew up in a household with a father who was abusive and addicted to drugs and three siblings who were also heavy drug users. She found herself in trouble from an early age – involved in abusive relationships and using drugs herself. After losing her four children and eventually winding up on the streets, Gabby turned to SHAWL House. Gabby has now been clean for five months, and she is a proud graduate of the SHAWL House Transition Housing Program. Gabby’s path forward will not be easy. She will have to work hard every day to stay clean and to continue rebuilding her life. But because of her courage and the support she received from the caring people who run the SHAWL House, Gabby has a chance at a new start and hope for a bright future.

Women all across America are faced with the kind of impossible choices that Gabby faced – often between homelessness and life with an abusive partner. Transitional housing assistance programs help bridge a gap between emergency shelter and permanent housing for victims and their families. Providing viable temporary housing options and services that promote self-sufficiency are critical and proven steps toward violence-free lives.

Communities across America recognize the important role that temporary housing plays in this transition. When funds from the American Recovery Act made these grants possible, the response we received was overwhelming.

These Recovery Act funds will help the SHAWL House respond to the effect of the financial crisis on its operations. Funds from this grant will be used to keep case managers, who provide direct services to women in the program, and thereby expand the reach of this important program.

As local law enforcement professionals, victim service providers and community based organizations struggle with the current economic crisis, we can not afford to decrease our commitment to fighting crime and keeping our communities safe.

We all know that the most vulnerable in our society bear the greatest burden in times of economic hardship. That is why the $225 million in Office on Violence Against Women grant money provided by the Recovery Act is so important.

With this award, SHAWL House will join only a handful of Office on Violence Against Women grantees who are providing comprehensive victim services as part of a holistic, victim-centered approach that provides a tailored plan for recovery.

I want to particularly acknowledge the partnership that you have with Rainbow Services, Behavioral Health Services Inc., Harbor Interfaith and Joint Services Inc. to provide flexible and optional services that reflect the needs of each woman and allow for choices that are right for her.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to serving your community. In the face of a very difficult economic climate, it is extraordinarily difficult to keep programs like this running smoothly. It is a privilege to visit with you today and to provide this grant to help you continue the outstanding work you do.

Our combined efforts to pursue and convict those who commit violence against women, along with the work done here and places like SHAWL House, helps women across our nation overcome a nightmare that no one should have to endure.

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