Sandoval County Commiss-ioners voted unanimously to approve a lease agreement between the county and Haven House during their meeting last Thursday.

Haven House, a nonprofit agency located in Rio Rancho, is dedicated to helping abused women and their children on their way toward a life free of domestic violence.

The lease is for 25 years and can be renewed once it expires. Annual rent is $35,860.

District 3 Commissioner David Bency (R- Rio Rancho) praised the nonprofit for the work it does with victims of domestic violence.

In order to use any of the funds for expanding Haven House, there had to be an agreement that was approved by the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration and the state Board of Finance.

Sandoval County has $1.5 million from the state and federal government to expand Haven House. Haven House raised $1 million of the funds, said Haven House Executive Director Diane Torrance. She said the remainder was raised in conjunction with Sandoval County.

The Haven House shelter is doubling in capacity, expanding from 20 to 40 beds.

Some additional terms of the lease include: Haven House is responsible for utilities and carries insurance for premises and their property; the county doesn’t conduct operation of services; and the county is responsible for structural improvements including expansion and any permanent additions to the land become property of the county.

Haven House was founded in 1994 as Project Sandoval County to help domestic violence victims with legal advocacy services and, occasionally, short-term shelter at local motels. Four local women sitting around a kitchen table came up with a plan to create a Haven House. Subsequently, the Rio Rancho Rotary Club took on the project, engaging citizens from some of the local call centers and healthcare facilities. For the first few years, Project Sandoval was staffed completely by volunteers. By the late 1990s, the founders were getting small grants and making plans to build an actual shelter facility. Funds were raised, plans were drawn and the building started to take shape. By January 2002, the shelter/office facility opened and the number of clients utilizing Haven House has grown in multiples ever since.

Today, Haven House offers 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week crisis intervention, shelter services, case management and referrals, legal advocacy, therapeutic counseling, domestic violence support groups, life skills education, and children’s services. Haven House was founded to serve domestic violence victims and, 15 years later, this remains its sole business.

Haven House is the only agency in Sandoval County dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and survivors. Haven House provides not only immediate safety, but also knowledge, skills, and resources that will help clients move on to safe, healthy lives and stay away from violent living situations in the future. Haven House is likewise focused on ensuring that the children of domestic violence do not become abusers or victims as teens and adults.