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Women in need get a refuge

Volunteer Danielle Daly, left, and Corky and Gail Kalben of Bonner Gospel Mission meet at Grace Haven women's shelter on Thursday. The three helped prepare the home for the opening of the shelter. 
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Volunteer Danielle Daly, left, and Corky and Gail Kalben of Bonner Gospel Mission meet at Grace Haven women's shelter on Thursday. The three helped prepare the home for the opening of the shelter. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Where do women in poverty turn when they lose a home or source of provision? Where does the woman whose life is cluttered with the debris of wrong choices end up? When she’s been dogged by low-end jobs, dead-end men, substance abuse or jail time? For some, Grace Haven provides hope.

Grace Haven, a women’s shelter designed to fill a growing need for assistance in Bonner and Boundary counties, is an extension of the Bonner Gospel Mission in Ponderay. Since 1990, the mission has operated as a refuge for men. A similar shelter has not been available to women – until now, said Grace Haven’s assistant director, Gail Kalben.

The new shelter, with room for up to nine women and children, is expected to open within a week or so.

“Between the Canadian border and Coeur d’Alene, only the Bonner County Domestic Violence Shelter is available to take in women in an emergency situation,” said Sheryl Kins, director of Grace Haven. “And not every woman’s situation qualifies her for admittance.”

Having served as a manager for the domestic violence shelter for more than seven years, Kins said she is aware of the needs of homeless women in the two counties. The rising price of real estate makes it increasingly difficult for lower income women to maintain their homes or find new ones if they are forced to move, she said.

“When I worked for Bonner County Homeless Task Force, I saw women and children living in shame, anger, desperation and despair,” Kins said in an e-mail interview. “Typically, the women would try to fill their emptiness inside with alcohol, drugs, food, spending sprees, sex, self-mutilation.”

Kins wanted to help them by sharing what she and others have experienced.

Grace Haven is open to single women or women with children – with some restrictions – who are homeless and open to a change in their lives. Inside the shelter they will find a bed, meals, children’s programs and a comprehensive, Bible-centered adult program that addresses the issues of life.

When admitted to Grace Haven, women are granted a five-day stay. During that time they are required to follow the program guidelines for safety and chores, but they are not required to participate in any of the Bible study opportunities.

Whether their stay will be extended will depend on a woman’s need for housing and her willingness to participate with the shelter’s director in setting and meeting goals for her future.

Step through the front door and the first impression is one of comfort. Volunteer interior designer Danielle Daly created a welcoming atmosphere, from the golden hue of the kitchen to the peace-invoking eggplant-colored dining room walls.

“Danielle worked very hard to make every room feel like a hug,” Kins said.

At the nucleus of the lower level is the kitchen. The area is spacious. A wide opening and two steps lead into the sunken great room. Here, large windows open onto the fenced backyard, flooding the room with natural light. The dining room flows from the kitchen, and then into a room designed with children in mind.

The children’s room has a ceiling painted with clouds and a wall mural featuring woodland creatures – a safe place for a child’s daydreams to wander on great adventures.

A sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, laundry room and the shelter director’s office round out the first floor. More bedrooms and another bathroom are upstairs.

Grace Haven receives no government funding. Everything is made possible by donations from the community. Cabinet Mountain Calvary Chapel, Cedar Hills Church, Faith Evangelical Free Church, Northside Christian Fellowship and Sandpoint Christian Center have sponsored rooms for guests. Volunteers donated both time and materials to improve the rooms. Additionally, they provided furniture, window dressings and linens to make the rooms cozy.

Grace Haven is in need of a lawn mower and an outdoor, gazebo-type shelter for the back yard. Financial donations are welcome.

Kins said she is excited by Grace Haven and the opportunity to serve the community.

“At Grace Haven we hope to provide a shelter or refuge,” she said.


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