Before Palomar officially opened its doors in 2017, the need for an organization serving survivors of abuse in Oklahoma City had become obvious.
“Before we had phones, a copier, furniture — I mean, we literally didn’t have anything yet — we had just moved in, we were waiting for deliveries, and people started banging at the door,” recalled Kim Garrett-Funk, Palomar founder and chief visionary officer. “I’ll never forget the attorneys on the floor on their hands and knees, helping them with paperwork and filings. It was a really powerful moment. Fast forward to now, and we’ve had over 19,000 unduplicated clients— anyone from a mom with a newborn baby to a 97-year-old man, and everyone in between. Crime doesn’t discriminate.”
In Oklahoma, 49% of women are or have been affected by crime, violence and abuse. Garrett-Funk understands this statistic all too well.
“I have been impacted by crime. It impacted me tremendously, and it fueled a passion in me,” she said. “I’m really committed to helping survivors.”
Garrett-Funk began this commitment at age 18, when she was volunteering at a rape crisis call center. Then, while earning her social work degree, she worked for the police department in Reno, Nevada. In 2011, she joined the Oklahoma City Police Department as a victim services coordinator. As she gained more experience, she noticed more flaws in the system.
People in crisis were walking in with immediate needs, only to be sent away to other agencies located throughout the city. This sparked years of conversations with professionals and organizations, research and planning between city leaders — and culminated in Garrett-Funk’s opening of Palomar, a one-stop resource for protection and healing modeled after other family justice centers nationwide.
In its earliest years, Palomar had 15 agency partners. Today, there are 42. To accommodate such growth and overwhelming community support, Garrett-Funk is currently reviewing new building plans and hoping to break ground in spring 2024 and open in 2025.
“No other city across the United States has made the commitment to survivors that Oklahoma City has,” she said. “Investing $42 million with the MAPS 4 project for Palomar is a huge message to survivors — ‘You matter, and we care about you’ — and it’s a huge testament to what’s ahead for families in our community.”
Beyond the comprehensive resources and services they make readily available, the Palomar team keeps survivors at the heart of their work.
“Nationally, we are recognized as one of the best family justice centers in the United States,
and I think a large component of that is because we’ve been so client-centered,” Garrett-Funk said. “If something’s not working, we tweak it, we modify it, we cut it.”
Palomar is changing outcomes. Garrett-Funk says she’s seen children from Palomar’s camps and programs go on to thrive in education and personal relationships. The new facility will allow Garrett-Funk to further expand Palomar’s partnerships and programming. It will also house a coffee shop for survivors to connect, and training rooms for the community to learn about Palomar’s work.
“I think traditionally this work has been kept a secret, and the reality is we have to build an army of angels to combat this,” said Garrett-Funk of the prevalence of abuse and violence. “This is a community and systemic problem, and so we’re trying to approach it differently.”