The Domestic Violence Center of Howard County announced yesterday that it will expand its shelter capacity and add workers to its counseling and legal services after receiving nearly $700,000 in grants.
Stephanie Sites, the center's executive director, said the funds would help relieve crowding in the center's shelters, which often led workers to place mattresses on floors to avoid turning clients away.
She said that the additional counseling and legal services would help the center to end continuing abuse within families and prevent children from adopting the same behavior when they grow up.
"There is help out there," Ms. Sites said. "The whole thing about domestic violence is the isolation and the feeling that they're the only one."
The grants, awarded earlier this month, are from United Way of Central Maryland, which gave more than $99,000 a year for two years, and from the state Department of Human Resources' Women's Services Programs, which awarded $500,000 to the center over the next five years.
The United Way contribution lets the center hire a part-time staff attorney, who will give legal advice to clients, and two part-time clinicians to oversee the program for those who batter and for specialized children's services.
The grant also lets the center open an additional shelter for battered women and their children, bringing the number of shelters run by the center to six.
With the new shelter, bed capacity will be 44, up from the current 35.
The state grant will help the center provide 24-hour supervision at the center's main safe house in Columbia.
Ms. Sites said that an increase in services is necessary because the number of clients and their need for professional and legal advice continues to increase.
During the past fiscal year, which ended June 30, the center had 379 clients -- 70 more than the previous year.
The number of calls to the center's hot line increased to 7,100 during the past fiscal year, up from 2,600 during fiscal year 1991.
Total "bednights" -- the number of nights multiplied by the number of beds occupied in the center's five shelters -- increased to 10,021 during the past fiscal year, up from 3,260 during fiscal year 1991.
"We're busy," Ms. Sites said. "I think it's a good educated guess that all these things will go up."
She said she believes that the numbers will continue to increase because of renewed attention to domestic violence.
"The more the public hears about it . . . the more people realize, 'I don't have to keep this a secret,' " Ms. Sites said.