The initial program called BRIDGE was founded in 1979, and consisted of a five-room shelter and one part-time staff member. The current shelter is located in a building that was generously donated by the Weidmann family in 1986. In December 1987, the Center became incorporated as the Women’s Crisis Center of Metro East; the name was changed in June 2000 to the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois.
In the more than 33 years since its inception, the VPC has expanded to meet the needs of the three counties it serves:
- Staff members were able to assist victims of domestic violence in obtaining orders of protection due to the passing of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.
- The East St. Louis outreach office opened.
- The Shelter Shop opened its doors for business. The Shelter Shop is a resale store that sells donated clothing, household items and furniture in order to aid in the financial support of the Center. The store’s merchandise is available, free of charge, to all clients who demonstrate a need for clothing and household items.
- The Prevention Program was formalized, allowing the Center to provide training for clergy, police, health care professionals, schools and other concerned citizen groups. Our contacts through this program are projected to be 30,000 in 2000.
- The Chester outreach office opened to serve Randolph County.
- The Waterloo office opened to serve Monroe County.
- Staff were invited to take a more active role in the newly formed Domestic Violence Court in St. Clair County. The Court Advocates became an integral part of this program.
- Police advocates were placed in eight local police stations and made 3,650 contacts. Court advocates are now permanently placed in Domestic Violence Court.
- The VPC was one of four domestic violence programs in Illinois picked to collaborate with the local Substance Abuse program. VPC staff provided domestic violence education and counseling to victims with substance abuse issues. This program, call Passages to Peace, was a joint effort with Gateway Foundation.
- The Peace Place, a non-residential counseling program designed for children ages 5-17, was implemented.
- The VPC was one of four programs chosen in the nation to implement a medical advocacy program through assistance with the Department of Human Services.
- Project Renee, a multidisciplinary approach to helping victims of domestic violence begins. This partnership includes St. Clair County States Attorney’s Office, St. Clair County Probation Office, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department and the Violence Prevention Center.