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Fergus Falls Journal: Secretary of state spotlights domestic violence program

October 21, 2015

Fergus Falls Journal: Secretary of state spotlights domestic violence program
By Jacob Tellers, 10/19/15

Having an address is important, but sometimes it isn’t best to have everyone else know it.

When intrepid criminals began to use voter registration roles maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office to get around methods of hiding addresses, the Secretary of State’s Office created the Safe at Home program to allow victims of domestic violence, stalking and other crimes to be able to hide their addresses from the public.

On Friday, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited Someplace Safe — a resource center in Fergus Falls that serves victims of domestic violence and other crimes — which partners with the Safe at Home program. Simon met with Someplace Safe Executive Director Sheila Korby and people who enroll others in Safe at Home to discuss how it might be improved.

Participants in the program receive a post office box that directs them to the Safe at Home offices. The mail is then forwarded to the participants homes. This process allows them to register for all the normal services they would typically need, while preventing others from knowing where they live.

The program partners with organizations throughout the state, including in Fergus Falls, to enroll people who fear for their safety. Application assistants, employed by these organizations, are specially trained by Safe at Home to assist people who wish to enroll.

Minnesota is one of about 30 states with a similar law, Simon said.

There are about 2,000 people enrolled in the program right now, and the program has enrolled more than 5,000 since its inception.

While the program mostly focuses on helping victims of domestic violence and stalking, anyone with a need to have a confidential address can apply, Simon said.

Prosecutors working dangerous cases have been involved in the program in the past, he added.

One thing Someplace Safe advocate Melissa Black said she would like to see is more education about the program, both for the sake of potential enrollees and for people who might be confused by the PO box address they use with it.

Secretary Simon, who championed the program while serving in the Legislature, worked with both Republicans and Democrats to successfully pass a bill further strengthening the Safe at Home program during the 2015 legislative session by clarifying the circumstances in which an address in the Safe at Home program could legally be required to be revealed.

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