Family Crisis Centers has big 2019

Family Crisis Centers director Shari Kastein and marketing director Tara Raman talk business with lead advocate Abbie Vos at the FCC’s call center.

SIOUX CENTER—The Family Crisis Centers has had a year full of changes.

The nonprofit that provides a variety of services for those dealing with violent crimes moved locations this year, changed the way they handle sheltering victims and saw a great turn out for its annual Wine Gala fundraiser.

FCC director Shari Kastein said the organization had outgrown its location of 10 years at Fourth Avenue Northeast as additional services kept being added.

FCC serves a 17-county area for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. They also offer Integrated Advocacy Services, a program to make services for victims and survivors of crime more accessible.

Its WISH Unit, or Western Iowa Survivors of Homicide and Other Violent Crimes Program, works with families and survivors of homicide victims, as well as victims and survivors of violent crimes in a 29-county area.

Its call center in Sioux Center is a statewide program funded through the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. The call center receives around 35,000 calls a year, a number that grows every year, according to FCC marketing director Tara Raman.

FCC has about 50 employees.

Kastein said that as FCC found more success in handling additional services, they kept on running out of space. They had four people working out of the building’s conference room.

“We had no place for them to go,” Kastein said.

FCC planned to build a new facility, complete with housing units, near Sioux Center Health. This would have cost $8 million, though they tried to find ways to cut the cost down to $6 million.

But when Interstates planned to move out of one of its buildings in 2019, it was an opportunity for FCC to move into a completed structure that would meet its needs for years to come, even if they continue to expand their numbers.

“We were used to working in 4,500 square feet with about 28 of us all on top of each other,” Kastein said. “Now we got 28,000 square feet.”

The space is so big, FCC is renting out part of the building to other groups, such as Lutheran Services of Iowa. This has the added bonus of providing FCC with an additional revenue stream separate from state funding.

Interstates also left FCC with most of the furniture they had used in the building, leaving FCC with one less thing to worry about as they move.

There is still some minor work left to be done to the space, namely some painting. But Kastein plans to have Interstates employees who worked in the building come back to visit sometime in January so that they can see what’s been done with the space.

“It’s been a good partnership with them,” Kastein said.

FCC still owns its previous building. It’s being used for short-term sheltering, but the building is for sale.

Survivor housing changes

In March 2019, FCC changed how it handles survivor housing when it put up its survivor housing facility and four adjacent lots for sale.

Kastein said the new way they’re doing this better meets clients where they’re at within the 17 counties they serve.

The idea is to get the clients into a safe housing situation that allows them to be in the community they want to be in.

The new housing model FCC follows is called rapid rehousing.

The idea is that a client comes to FCC in need of long-term housing in a particular community. FCC helps them find a suitable place, get it move-in ready, ensure that utilities are ready when they move in and that they have access to any additional resources such as food pantries.

Kastein explained that FCC holds the lease for a period of time and works with the landlord to have the client take over the lease. FCC does not buy or own the house, however.

So, whatever financial responsibilities FCC starts out with is eased over time as the client becomes more established and secured in life.

She said they did have people stay in shelters for a couple years because they didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Not only is this cheaper for FCC, but it also has been statistically shown that it results in more financial independence for the client.

Although this way of doing things is new to FCC, it isn’t new to other similar organizations.

On a personal level, it was hard to move beyond the traditional sheltering model for Kastein. She still recalls how important the shelter house she stayed in so many years ago was to her when her 15-month-old daughter was hospitalized following her abduction.

Kastein stayed at the shelter for four days.

“It was my sanctuary,” she said.

But she doesn’t regret the turn to rapid rehousing in the least. She’s enjoyed hearing about the successes people who’ve been assisted through the program have had.

Wine Gala

FCC’s annual wine gala is the group’s biggest fundraiser. The last gala was held March 15, 2019 and had more than 300 people in attendance.

“It’s steadily grown every single year since I’ve started,” Raman said. “That’s awesome and great.”

And they’re looking ahead to the next gala, scheduled for March 13, 2020. This will be their 10th gala held, and they plan to have even greater turn out.

“We’re looking to have $20,000 in matching funds, we’re looking to do a lot more,” Raman said.

Auctions are a staple of the event, along with providing other means for attendees to donate.

Guests can buy tickets to reserve a table that will be prepared for them in advance and reserved. The guests can even take the table centerpiece home with them.

Tickets are available at Melissa’s Hope Chest or at the door at the night of the event. People can also call 712-722-4404 and ask about the wine gala tickets to get some.

Otherwise, there will be open seating available at the event.