SAN MARCOS — A new family justice center finally opened its doors in San Marcos this week, helping to fill a gap in crucial services for survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and child abuse in North San Diego County.
The 44,000 square-foot facility on Los Vallecitos Boulevard known as One Safe Place has been years in the making, spearheaded by San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. The building was constructed and is managed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
For many years, the county’s only family justice center was located in downtown San Diego. When a 2019 report from the District Attorney’s Office found disproportionate levels of domestic abuse homicide in North County, the need for increased services in the area became more apparent than ever.
Partnering with over 70 county organizations, One Safe Place provides acute crisis care, forensic medical exams, advocacy, counseling and therapy, legal services such as restraining orders, clothing and resources related to housing, jobs and educational opportunities.
“What we are looking for in this place is to save a life,” Stephan said. “The data really showed that there is a disproportionate level of family violence that has led to homicide in North County. When we ask the question of ‘why does this happen,’ the answer was that there’s not enough prevention services.”
On July 2, just three days before the center officially opened, over 100 residents and local officials attended a welcome event where they were able to tour the facility and connect with dozens of the partnering organizations including Palomar Health, Sharia’s Closet, San Diego Humane Society and others.
Oceanside resident Jessica Garcia explored the facility with her family, her kids delighted at the brand-new amenities, vibrant children’s area and variety of comfortable areas to relax.
“I really like it. It’s homey, it’s comfortable, it feels open, and it does feel safe,” Garcia said. “It’s kind of exciting, to have a place to feel like I can hide here. That’s the reason I brought my kids too, so they can know that if you need to, you have resources.”
While nondescript on the outside, situated among a sea of large, gray retail stores, the interior of One Safe Place is anything but.
Wood paneling, calm lighting and a variety of comfortable seating options replace any sense of sterility, even in the medical examination areas, court office where individuals can seek a restraining order, and law enforcement hub on the second floor where survivors can choose to meet with detectives.
The imagery of tree branches, bamboo and a large pyramid structure in the Welcome Hub — a favorite symbol in the District Attorney’s Office as a solid structure that survives centuries — are intended to communicate the center’s mission for resiliency and healing.
Along with the children’s room, a clothing boutique, haircut salon, interfaith space and kitchen await guests to help meet their needs.
“We wanted this place to feel like family, and if people came from violence and didn’t feel safe at home, they will feel safe here,” Stephan said.
The Dress for Hope clothing boutique, operated by nonprofit Sharia’s Closet, is the first thing guests see when they enter the main service area of the building. Here, guests can pick out polished outfits for job interviews, court appearances and other events for free, and find emergency clothing for men, women and children.
“I believe that every community needs the type of service that we provide,” said founder and CEO Shamine Linton. “It’s really honoring people where they are, if they want gender neutral clothing, if you like light colors, I’d you don’t want polka dots … we say, we can do that. Those are actions behind those words — loving people.”
The center is open to residents from all over the county, but will mainly be focused on assisting residents in North County. The center partners specifically with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the police departments in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Escondido.
One Safe Place is open and available for walk-ins Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Residents can also contact One Safe Place to make an appointment for services at [email protected] or 760-290-3690.