In April 1977, a group called the Jackson Area Council for Battered Women was formed because of its concern for family violence, the problems violence creates, and the lack of services available for victims in the area. To make the Council’s vision concrete, an established administrative agency was needed so that fund could be obtained. The Jackson Area Substance Abuse Clinic agreed to administer the program. The program began in December 1977 under the name AWARE – Abused Women’s Assistance and Resources. Until February 1978, the services were provided on a 24-hour basis by coordinating the Emergency Counseling Centers – 24 hour crisis phone line, plus one trained staff and a core of trained volunteers who provided face to face crisis intervention, emergency food, and housing in volunteer homes. Later, when Jackson County information and referral services were added, Emergency Counseling Center became HELPLINE. In 1978, the founding mother of AWARE, Wanda Goetz-Beiswenger was able to acquire a building to be used as a shelter for battered women through a grant from the Jackson YWCA Trust Fund, funds from the Michigan Department of Social Services and $10,000 from Community Development Block Grant to remodel the building.
Throughout its history AWARE has expanded and redefined its services to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual violence, and worked in the community for social change. In 1980 the Sexual Assault Counseling program was begun. In response to the need for safe and affordable housing for families leaving the emergency shelter AWARE began a Transitional Housing Program in 1993. Collaboration with the Community Action Agency has expanded this program to provide case management and 8 lease units in addition to the 8 currently owned by AWARE. In 1996 AWARE initiated a Legal Advocacy Program in collaboration with the Jackson County Domestic Violence Coordination Council. An Outreach Program was also begun with a grant from Jackson County Family Independence Agency, now known as the Jackson County Department of Human Services. AWARE completed renovation of a new shelter facility and moved in June 1997. A long history of collaboration with Catholic Social Services has resulted in the Kids First program, which was funded by the United Way Children’s Initiative in 1999. The cornerstone of this program is Kids Club, a group treatment program for children from violent homes. AWARE and Catholic Social Services have worked together to provide Kids Club for over seven years. Recently AWARE added individual clinical counseling to the services provided.
AWARE, Inc. is well known in the community for its high quality, empathetic, goal-oriented approach to assisting survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The agency continues to implement programs and services to meet the needs of Jackson County.
In the summer of 2001 AWARE finished renovation on the Barb Maes Counseling Center, adding a second floor to the Carriage House Counseling Center. The renovation was necessary to accommodate the new Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program started in March 2001 and expanded services in the Sexual Assault Program. A task force from the community met for over a year before the SANE program started and continues to oversee the program.