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Shelter director resigns, agency future uncertain

By Joe Beck

FRONT ROYAL -- The former executive director of Harmony Place domestic violence shelter said Friday she had resigned days earlier by "mutual agreement" as unconfirmed reports swirled that the facility at 317 E. Main St. has closed permanently.

The doors to the shelter were locked Friday and no one answered the intercom at the door or phone calls to the office. Phones calls to some members of the board of directors were not returned.

A phone call to the Harmony Place hotline was routed to the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, a statewide service. A woman who answered said the statewide hotline was answering all emergency calls to Harmony Place while the agency is closed.

Melissa DeDomenico-Payne said the board of directors had asked her to resign a few days ago, and she had agreed to do so.

"It was a mutual decision, DeDomenico-Payne said.

DeDomenico-Payne said she had also heard reports of the agency's demise, but had no first-hand knowledge if such a decision had been taken.

"I was caught by surprise by this news," DeDomenico-Payne said, adding, "Everybody knows we were under financial pressure."

Harmony Place has been operating for 30 years, according to its website. Its services include a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, crisis intervention, support groups, criminal justice advocacy and rapid rehousing for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Harmony Place's thrift store, A Second Chance, closed in late December and some agency staff had also been laid off.

The agency began a campaign in May to raise $150,000 while trying to find a buyer for its current building. The building remains for sale and plans to move to a new location were on hold until a buyer could be found.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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