Shelter from the Storm Arizona Domestic Violence shelters make some much-needed improvements

For those of us who have a safe and comfortable place to lay our heads at night, it’s hard to imagine being without. We often take our basic needs for food, clothing and shelter for granted. We cook our meals, wash our dishes and retire to our rooms, many of us without having to share much of our living space. For those running from a dangerous environment that involves domestic violence, life in an emergency shelter is far different.

Just under 7,500 adults and children spent 283,170 nights in domestic violence shelters in Arizona last year. That’s a lot of people, spending a lot of nights away from home. Emergency shelters are full, with dozens of people—traumatized people--sharing a kitchen, bathrooms, and in some cases, even a bedroom with people they’ve never met before.

The Department of Economic Security (DES), through its Domestic Violence Prevention Program administers funding for shelters and programs in 13 Arizona counties. When the State Legislature appropriated an additional $1.5 million dollars to the Domestic Violence Services Fund for capital improvements in 2016, shelter and program organizers knew just what they needed. A total of 34 shelters and affiliated support programs submitted applications, and were awarded up to $45,000 each, the money to be used for capital improvements only.

Catholic Charities' My Sister's Place in Chandler trimmed trees, painted, improved the security system, and bought new washers and dryers, dishwashers, a refrigerator and mattresses.

My Sister's Place Senior Program Manager, Leslie Mar’Na, says these upgrades go a long way to make their clients—who are already under a lot of stress--feel more comfortable. Community living is hard, especially when you’re sharing space with someone you don’t know.

“The last thing you need is, ‘the dishwasher’s not working,’ or ‘I can’t find my stuff,’ or ‘the bathroom looks icky,’" said Mar’Na.

DES Domestic Violence Program Administrator Laura Guild says this money means a lot to so many programs.

"Over the past year, we have consistently gotten feedback from the shelters expressing gratitude and excitement about shower heads or paving driveways," says Guild. "I have had many opportunities to visit these shelters over the years and know how deteriorated many of them have become. Capital improvements are always low on their budget priority list and just like in our lives, home improvements get put off until something no longer functions."
La Paz County
Sierra Vista
"Many of these shelters were created from existing properties that were not designed to be residential properties. They were modified to accommodate the need," says Guild. "Appliances, bathroom fixtures, and playgrounds are used by hundreds of people over the course of a year, so the wear and tear becomes very obvious."

Some of these improvements aren't quite as visible, but very necessary, and often, harder to acquire.

Apache Junction
"There is not much emotional appeal around asking people to buy or donate an air conditioner."

--contractor in Pima County

The Page Regional Domestic Violence Shelter is using the money to build greenhouses, where its clients can grow vegetables and herbs. The shelter believes working in a garden helps in the healing process.
“Thank you, DES, for the funds. These were things we really needed to do.”

--Leslie Mar'Na, My Sister's Place

The DES Domestic Violence Prevention Program works with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, community-based organizations and state agencies to coordinate services to victims of domestic violence.


Created with images by Crystl - "remember" • Counselling - "child education fear" • CMYKane - "Domestic Violence" • dualdflipflop - "I Thought He Loved Me"

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