HSU alumni Alli Minch (‘92, ‘94) and Byron Turner (‘88, ‘92) are matching up to $1 million in donations for their dream Oasis Project, a violence recovery community to be home-based in Humboldt County that will provide sustained care to women and children who are survivors of domestic crime.
Treatment and support would be provided both to local residents and those outside the region.
The approximately $2 million project (http://teachmac.com/oasis_project) will focus on precision planning and management to enable women and children to undertake long-term healing, learn new skills, become independent and re-enter society in a safe, new location. Oasis partners include universities, among them HSU, volunteer professionals and existing domestic violence programs. Through this broad-based coalition, the project will address the physical, emotional, educational, legal and economic needs of those being assisted, needs rarely dealt with in the common one-month stays provided at standard facilities.
“The idea is to purchase land, commission super-energy-efficient construction and make the Oasis facility self-sufficient with food,” Turner said in an interview. “This will be a self-sustaining, long-term community for domestic violence survivors. The idea is to create a shelter that doesn’t require continual funding. It will be able to function on its own. If we get this right, we might be able to build dozens of these around the country.”
The tentative timetable for the Humboldt headquarters depends on a number of factors, including the availability of suitable land, a feasibility study, documentation of needs and the success of grant applications. Turner projects the purchase of land and the start of construction for 2008-2009. A temporary rented site might be set up in the meantime to offer limited services until the permanent facility is ready for occupancy.
Minch said another consideration is establishing a protected area to ensure the security of domestic violence survivors, who require secrecy of location to avert further attacks and abuse.
Why the North Coast? “We both love Humboldt County,” the married HSU alums said, “but beyond that we think it would be an excellent location for the project. The natural beauty, coupled with rural land and a strong commitment to sustainable technologies in the region, makes it our top choice. We’d be naive to think we could start the Oasis Project on our own. The accumulated knowledge represented in the community and at Humboldt State makes Humboldt County particularly appealing. There’s a lot of expertise here that we would like to tap into. We’re hoping to partner with the university to develop and implement the project, which eventually will provide jobs for community members and valuable work experience for students, who could intern at the site in counseling or engineering, as the facility develops and grows. There are many roles for students in a program like this.”
The HSU liaison is Professor Pamela Brown of the Department of Social Work, who is collaborating with a local independent grant writing consultant, Shelley Mitchell, to obtain planning and research financing. “I’ll be making connections here at the university to reach students who are interested in researching land possibilities, water availability, feasibility and need,” Dr. Brown said.
Statistics compiled by the United States Department of Justice show that domestic violence makes up 21% of all violent crime suffered by women. The Oasis Project estimates that the costs of one murder trial, the incarceration of the perpetrator for 10 years, the foster care and counseling for two children, and other costs associated with domestic violence come to at least $1 million. The expense to society is certainly more than that if the estimate includes the police time, school costs and jail for a son who follows his father’s pattern.
Based on those figures, Turner and Minch estimate that a given community could avoid nearly $32 million in costs if Oasis saved 30 women and their children.
The couple started a non-profit in the 1990s called Created Equal while they were students at HSU. It culminated in TeachMac/TeachIT, a multimedia computer training system whose underlying technology they sold for $2 million to a Bay Area company. The sale made it possible for them to match up to $1 million in donations to the Oasis Project between now and December 31, 2007. Donations of $10.00 and up can be made at http://www.teachmac.com/oasis_project.
Turner graduated from HSU with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1988 and a master’s in social science in 1992. He started his teaching career at Humboldt State as a lecturer in a variety of subjects, including psychology, ethnic studies and American sign language. Minch graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and German in 1992 and received her secondary credential in 1994.
The HSU alums married in 1999 and reside in Grass Valley with their four-year-old twin sons, Tim and Rob. Turner teaches social science at Sierra College and Minch teaches English and history at Nevada Union High School.
Under the auspices of Created Equal, they released two educational CDs, “Created Equal: Sex and Gender” and “Men, Women and the Sex Difference Exposed.”
For more information, contact HSU Professor Pamela Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, 826-4564 or 599-5404.
HSU Photo by Kellie Jo Brown