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October 04, 2016

Kenney unveils new effort to reduce domestic violence in Philadelphia

Last year, hotline turned away more than 14,000 requests for safe shelter

Due to a lack of resources to adequately handle incidents of domestic violence last year, Philadelphia officials announced Tuesday a new strategy to address those problems.

Mayor Jim Kenney created a new position in the Department of Human Services (DHS) that will coordinate efforts to respond to domestic violence incidents. On average, city police report more than 100,000 calls related to domestic violence -- 300 a day -- each year.

“Too many victims suffer in silence because they are embarrassed for fear of even greater mistreatment," Kenney said. "Domestic violence is at the core of many of the health and social issues our city struggles with including homelessness, addiction and educational barriers. We must work together to create better outcomes for our neighbors.”

Azucena Ugarte was tabbed by Kenney to serve as the first director of domestic abuse strategies. She had been working as the director of prevention, education and technical assistance at Women Against Abuse, a local nonprofit agency founded in 1976.

Ugarte's appointment comes a year after more than 14,000 requests for safe shelter had to be denied by the Philadelphia Domestic Violence hotline. City officials said those victims were turned away due to lack of capacity at the city’s two safe havens.

“For too long, domestic violence – a fundamental component of public health and safety – has been inadequately addressed without the coordination of a city authority,” said Jeannine Lisitski, executive director of Women Against Abuse. “Today’s groundbreaking announcement dramatically changes the landscape and will position Philadelphia to successfully intervene into an issue that threatens families across our community.

In her position, Ugarte will be tasked with connecting law enforcement, other city agencies, advocacy groups and religious institutions to address domestic violence.

Ugarte is scheduled to start on Oct. 17.