Domestic Violence Network will open new shelter

THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NETWORK has been working with Amert Construction on plans for its new shelter which will provide both privacy for families using the shelter and adequate office space for staff, support groups and client meetings.

Not everyone can get excited about receiving an invoice, but last week Cathy Moore was excited about one the Domestic Violence Network (DVN) had received.

The president of the board of directors was nearly ecstatic about receiving an invoice for the first of two governor's houses which will be placed on a lot the DVN purchased last year. After more than three years of fund-raising, the nonprofit will be opening a new shelter in Madison later this year.

"It's two governor's homes with a garage joining the two homes together," said Christy VanDeWetering, DVN executive director.

One of the homes will be used to shelter families. The other will be used for office space and meeting rooms. This will ensure clients can meet with staff privately and give them easier access to other local resources.

"Our clients will actually be able to meet with other professionals and services in the shelter," VanDeWetering said.

"And there will be room for support groups," Moore added.

The shelter will be located on S.W. 2nd Street between Krug Products, Inc., and one of the Mustang Seeds locations. The large lot was attractive to the organization even though it's near the railroad tracks.

"It's going to have more space and a yard for kids to play," Moore said.

Both were relieved neighbors did not oppose the site selected. Previous efforts to purchase a building were met with opposition, primarily because neighbors didn't understand how a shelter works.

"They thought there would be all kinds of trouble," Moore explained.

"And people coming in the middle of the night with sirens blaring," VanDeWetering elaborated.

Those who opposed that purchase did not realize the current shelter is in their neighborhood and has not provided the kinds of disruptions they feared. This time, no opposition has been expressed through either the process required to obtain a conditional use permit or for obtaining a building permit.

Although the number of people who seek assistance varies from year to year, approximately 60 individuals annually stay at the shelter, according to VanDeWetering. However, approximately 130 individuals seek assistance from the nonprofit.

The DVN provides courtroom advocacy and helps clients obtain protection orders, helps them do safety planning, and supports clients as they transition into a different life. This may include anything from assisting them with applications to connecting them with other community resources.

While domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional and financial, physical violence is often evident and is escalating.

"The physical violence is getting worse," VanDeWetering said. "The abuse is getting more violent. The incidences of strangling and suffocation and knives are increasing."

Statistics indicate one in three women will experience abuse in a relationship in her lifetime. Similarly one in nine men will experience abuse.

Since launching the fund-raising campaign for the new shelter in 2016, the DVN has raised $116,000. VanDeWetering said they have been humbled by the level of community support, not only from organizations but also from area schools.

However, what they have received thus far will only cover about one-third of the total cost of the completed facility. They have added two new ways for people to support the project: through the GoFundMe link on Facebook and by designating the Domestic Violence Network as the charitable organization of choice on Amazon Smile.

If all goes as planned, the first governor's house will be placed on its foundation in March. The new shelter is expected to open by July.

"It's going to be so much better," VanDeWetering said. "Clients are going to have so much more room."

VanDeWetering said they are going to miss their current neighbors when they relocate. Those neighbors keep an eye on the shelter and notify staff if anything is suspicious. They also clear snow from the sidewalks and even leave baked goods on the stairs for the families who are being sheltered.

Those who wish to support the project are invited to attend Laughs and Linguini on Feb. 29. Tickets are $30 and available by calling the DVN office at 605-427-7233.