Domestic violence victims fleeing abusive partners will have a new housing option next month when the YWCA opens a new confidential safe shelter in Spokane Valley.
The YWCA already operates a similar shelter in Spokane that can house up to 40 women and children at a time. The new shelter is much smaller and can house three single women and three to four families at a time in seven bedrooms. “It’s because of the numbers we’re seeing from Spokane Valley that we started this one,” said marketing and development coordinator Meagan Pierluissi.
The new home is funded by a two-year, $180,000 grant from the Homeless Housing and Assistance Act Program run by Spokane County. The grant also includes money for staffing at both shelters. “It was a little less than we asked for, but we’ll make it work,” said Patty Wheeler, the Y’s director of programs.
Wheeler spotted the former group home one day as she drove by while the owner was in the yard. She asked how many bedrooms it had and how much he would charge to rent it to her. “He gave me a price like none other,” she said.
Since then the home has received a new coat of paint inside and out and other improvements. “He spent several weeks of his time working on this,” Wheeler said of the owner. “It was not quite as nice as it is now.”
There are plenty of common areas to go along with the seven bedrooms. There’s a fireplace and a laundry room on each floor. Children will be able to play in the fenced back yard. Wheeler pointed out a small nook in the basement that she plans to make into a homework area. “Kids have homework, even in a shelter,” she said.
Though Wheeler hopes to open the shelter in mid September, the house is still bare. The YWCA has set up an online registry at www.target.com for people to donate basic household items. Needed items include everything from kitchen pans to towels. “There’s something for everyone to help with,” Wheeler said.
The shelter is available to women who call the 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (509) 326-CALL. “We try not to have a wait list,” Wheeler said. “We try to take a woman in if she’s in imminent danger. If I can’t get her in here, I’ll get her in a hotel.”
The hotel bills paid by the YWCA last year totaled $36,000. Wheeler said she hopes the new shelter will help reduce that number.
Women and families will be allowed to stay in the shelter up to 90 days. One of the bedrooms will be given to a woman in the YWCA’s transitional housing program who will stay for 12 months and act as a hostess. The shelter will have only part-time staffing instead of the 24-hour staffing at the facility in Spokane.
As a confidential shelter, the location is not advertised. There is no sign out front. Neighbors were not notified that it is opening, but Wheeler knows they will figure it out eventually. Every effort is made to keep the location a secret, though the police know where it is. The home also has an alarm system.
Wheeler said she is considering running a capital campaign to raise enough money to buy the house. In the meantime, she’s hoping for a smooth opening. “Hopefully the Valley will embrace us,” she said. “We’re here to serve them.”