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Family Justice Center finds common ground for county good

In Our Opinion


Despite appearances to the contrary, Clackamas County’s politics and governance aren’t always defined by disunity or discord. Communities within this diverse county still are capable of coming together around important causes that are of concern to most everyone.

A moment of such unity was on display earlier this month when public officials and business people gathered at Milwaukie’s Waverly Country Club to celebrate the creation of a Clackamas County Family Justice Center — which will serve as a one-stop service hub for families in crisis.

The center, which will be housed starting in October in a county building on the Red Soils Campus in Oregon City, is made possible only through collaboration among county leaders. These are the same people who make headlines when they disagree on topics such as light rail and urban renewal, but to their credit, they also recognize the urgent need to protect women and children who potentially are leaving dangerous and abusive situations.

Until now, these families could access county services, but they had to travel to different offices in the county. That could be frustrating and intimidating for a woman who might, for example, be leaving an abusive spouse or partner. She would have to tell her story multiple times, find transportation to multiple locations and file multiple reports. Sometimes, these women would say it was easier just to return to the abusive home than to persevere through the bureaucracy.

Once the Family Justice Center opens, services will be found under one roof, making it easier for women and families to make the transition to a better and safer environment. The facility, operated by Clackamas County, will be the most comprehensive of its type in the Pacific Northwest.

Clackamas Women’s Services, a nonprofit organization that is partnering with the county on the facility, is still raising funds for furnishings and operations at the Family Justice Center. However, a sizable portion of support to date has come from the public sector. County commissioners, for example, have agreed to spend an estimated $75,000 to $90,000 annually for the occupancy of the building for all partner agencies.

The wider community support for the project also cuts across political and ideological lines. At the Sept. 10 celebration, there were county commissioners, Metro councilors, Republican and Democratic legislators, business people, law-enforcement officials, government bureaucrats and social-service workers all cheering the same cause.

As Ann Lininger, a former county commissioner and Clackamas Women’s Services board member, said, the collaboration that occurred around the Family Justice Center can serve as a good model for future teamwork in Clackamas County. Not every issue must be contentious. The Family Justice Center proves that when county leaders do find common ground, the result can be very powerful indeed.

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