New DVS shelter to provide 1st step to new life

By Paul Archipley | Oct 17, 2013
Photo by: Paul Archipley The new DVS shelter will help bring light to victims who have been living in darkness. Above, supporters look at the youth center, part of the three-building compound, that sits across from the main building.

Domestic violence is one of society’s most heart-breaking crimes. At the same time, because it touches so many, it also can bring out the best in us.

Those conflicting facts have never been more evident than in recent events that are coalescing with the scheduled opening of a new shelter operated by Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County.

Working in concert with law enforcement officials, local shelters and service agencies, the business community, volunteers and others, a dedicated staff has been working steadily toward completion of the $8 million shelter in south Snohomish County. A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 6.

Founded in 1976 by a small group of women who provided crisis and intervention work out of their homes, DVS today offers a range of services to address domestic violence, including a 24-hour hotline that answers nearly 6,000 calls per year, an emergency shelter that houses more than 300 women and children per year, shelter referral for male victims, transitional housing, support groups, a children’s program, and legal advocacy.

Until now, DVS has been able to house just a small number of victims in need. In 2011-12, they were able to shelter 220 people, but had to turn away nearly 1,600.

With the opening of their new 52-bed shelter and service center, their capabilities expand dramatically.

A recent tour of the nearly completed three-building compound revealed attention to detail: security fences, gates and cameras surround the complex; bullet-proof windows safeguard against violent outsiders; soundproofed conference rooms help traumatized victims feel safe as they talk with counselors and legal aides; a community kitchen provides a sense of warmth – and home – to children and adults alike; a youth recreation center gives kids a chance to be kids, and forget for awhile the pain that brought them here (See sidebar, Hope springs from tragedy).

Each of the bedrooms has its own bathroom; several have doors connecting adjoining rooms for larger families in distress. Downstairs rooms are ADA compliant.

DVS staff understand that women and children who end up in the shelter are in trauma, so every effort is made to provide them with safe, comfortable surroundings while they work on starting new lives.

For some, the shelter is more of a home than any they have ever known.

Karen McKeen, Director of Housing, said, “We have babies come straight from the hospital sometimes. This is their first home.

“It’s heartbreaking.”

While staff members are sympathetic to their clients’ pain, they also want to make sure those clients move forward after taking that first, difficult step away from a violent life.

That’s why, for example, the community kitchen will be open at all hours, and why residents will be encouraged to participate in cooking and eating meals with others.

“It’s a family meal,” said Development Director Debra Bordsen. “We want to get them out of their room, out of that ‘dark place,’ and get them active.”

There is also a computer room, a children’s room, a laundry room and other services to help clients rebuild their lives.

Many have arrived with nothing other than the clothes on their backs. No money, no job, no ID. They are starting from scratch.

While the average stay is 28 days, some clients stay only four or five, others up to 90.

Sadly, domestic violence isn’t declining. In fact, men are increasingly victims. The shelter, however, can’t house them. They are placed in a hotel or other accommodations.

Even with the uptick in male victims, women are far more likely to be victims – 85 percent of the total. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

That’s why the DVS expansion is so important.

Fortunately, the community has stepped up. At the non-profit’s most recent fundraiser, its eighth annual Hope Within luncheon on Oct. 3, more than 400 people attended, donating more than $35,000 to the cause.

Washington State First Lady Trudi Inslee was among those who attended.

The event featured state Rep. Elizabeth Scott publicly discussing domestic violence in her life for the first time.

Rep. Marko Liias, whose extended family also was touched by domestic violence, during one of the most heart-rending moments of the event read the names of Snohomish County victims who were killed in the past year.

Despite supporters’ generosity at the luncheon, more, of course, is needed. With the upcoming opening of the new shelter, DVS needs a range of household items.

Although donors can purchase items wherever they want, DVS has registered at several stores, including Babies R Us, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Of course, cash donations are always welcome. To learn how you can help, go to http://www.dvs-snoco.org/index

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