TIFTON -- Ruth's Cottage organizers say the recent $20,000 grant awarded by the Georgia Department of Human Resources for a Client Advocate for the women's shelter is a show of confidence from the state agency.

"The DHR has recognized that we are lacking in fundamental services to victims of domestic violence and children," said Patti Stafford, co-chairman of the Ruth's Cottage domestic violence task force.

Stafford said the grants are awarded to priority needs areas.

"We will be able to make social service referrals and put them in touch with the additional services they need," Stafford said.

The client advocate will be based in Tift County but will have the responsible to serve victims of domestic violence in Irwin, Turner and Worth counties as well. The four counties make up the Tift Superior Court's judicial circuit.

The person hired to fill the position will provide crisis intervention calls and service and referral calls, one-one-one consultations with clients and parenting education for clients.

The client advocate will also advice victims of other social services available and provide information about safe places they can stay.

"The advocate will act as a liaison between the victims and other shelters in the area," Stafford said.

Ruth's Cottage's board of directors will meet for the first time on Sept. 9. After that, Stafford said the position will be advertised. Also, fund raising and community awareness efforts and site selection for the shelter will begin after the board is charged.

Stafford said efforts are already underway to implement a sexual assault response team.

"We have been working with Tift Regional Medical Center to implement the team," Stafford said.

Stafford said Ruth's Cottage is already making a difference when it comes to responding to incidents of domestic violence. She said local law enforcement agents have started making referrals of victims who need their assistance with crisis intervention.

"It can take 10 days before a victim's advocate get a warrant," Stafford said. "With information, we can get assistance they made need during those 10 days."

Plans are to have a Ruth's Cottage crisis line up and running in October. Until then, anyone who needs assistance training for volunteers who will manage the crisis line is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17-19. For more information, contact Ellen PIckett, Ruth's Cottage's project coordinator at 229-386-0552.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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