Thursday was opening day for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center's new emergency shelter and office building in Minot.
The move was the final step in bringing services from four separate locations onto one $3 million campus.
The 2011 Souris River flood, which damaged the crisis center's two transitional living apartments, prompted action on what originally had been a long-range plan for new facilities. Construction resulted in two transitional apartment buildings that opened over the past year. The newest building on the New Beginnings Campus houses offices and a shelter that crisis center staff consider the gem of the operation.
Dena Filler, executive director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Minot, stands in the commercial kitchen of the new emergency shelter that opened Thursday.
"It's a wonderful facility," said Dena Filler, executive director for the center. "It's going to be a much more welcoming situation to come into. That's what we want to do is make them feel safe, comfortable and welcome."
The new shelter has 10 bedrooms, each with two trundle beds to accommodate up to four people per room. Each bedroom has a private wash area and connects to a toilet and shower room shared with one other bedroom in its suite.
That is in contrast to the former safe house, which had four bedrooms and two separate bathrooms.
Sandy Griffey, lead residential supervisor, said it was common to have 15 to 19 women and their children in the former shelter, sharing rooms or sleeping on hide-a-bed couches.
"We said at that time that the only place a woman had to call her own was her bed. There was no place to go and do some thinking," Filler said. "They need to have some space where they can have some privacy and sit and think and be making some decisions. That's one of the main things to get away from the abuse and to have some time to relax and rest and process what they are going to do with the rest of their lives."
The new shelter has a lower-level sitting room where women can watch their children play in a window-enclosed playroom. Another sitting room exists for women without children. The upper level also has a living room, where computer access will be available.
The previous shelter, which operated since 1981, had just one common area and one television, shared by women and children alike. The crisis center leased the house from the City of Minot and will turn it back to the city on May 31.
The new location offers a larger kitchen and separate dining room, where residents can prepare and enjoy family meals.
"We served almost 16,000 meals out of that kitchen last year at the old shelter. We are really excited about having a commercial kitchen," Filler said, noting that it includes two dishwashers.
The building has laundry rooms on each floor and far more storage space than the former shelter.
The main office is in a separate portion of the building, although there also is staff office space in the shelter. Staff monitor the shelter around the clock. In addition, the shelter has a more extensive security system and better outdoor lighting.
The crisis center's former shelter served 212 women and 169 children in 2013. The number of women was up 88 percent from 2009, while the number of children was up 56 percent. The number of meals prepared was up 113 percent.
Filler said the center recorded 2,476 contacts last year, up 63 percent from five years ago. More men have been contacting the center, although those numbers are small, she added. Men needing emergency shelter are boarded in hotels.
Some of the people being helped are recent transplants to the area. The center often assists them to return to parts of the country where they have support. However, a majority of people contacting the center would be considered local residents.
The center serves Ward, Renville, McHenry and Pierce counties. It recently hired an advocate to work in the Kenmare and Mohall areas. The center also works with the Bottineau Family Crisis Center, providing sheltering services for women from Bottineau and Rolette counties.
The Minot center has a staff of 17 who offer advocacy, residential supervision and other services. An additional two staff members serve the Bottineau center. Along with domestic violence victims, the Minot center serves sexual assault victims and assists them through the legal process.
The crisis center is largely funded with private grants and donations. It also receives some money from court-assessed fees, from federal grants and through the Souris Valley United Way. The center's building project has benefited from numerous donations, including grants from St. Joseph's Community Health Foundation and AgriBank and assistance from I. Keating Furniture World with furnishings. The Minot State University Leadership Group helped in purchasing household supplies.
Filler said the center continues to seek donations toward a mortgage of more than $700,000. Through an adopt-a-room program, individuals or organizations can fund specific portions of the project.
The crisis center is sponsoring an event called "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" Saturday at Dakota Square Mall in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Although not a fundraiser, the annual event that features men walking in high-heeled shoes generates an awareness so that people might give or seek out services.
Minot's shelter is one of nine domestic violence crisis shelters in the state, including a new safe house that just opened in Mandaree. The typical stay in the Minot shelter is 30 days, but the time varies and can be less than 24 hours.
The transitional living apartments provide for stays of up to 18 months. Rebuilding after the flood in its new location, the crisis center re-opened its first transitional facility last July. The second, Pauline's House, is named for Pauline Howard, one of the founders of the crisis center. It opened in January. Both units contain four two-bedroom apartments. Residents pay rent based on their incomes. Staff also work with residents to achieve their goals.
"Part of that is to give them skills to budget and be successful once they leave the program," Filler said. "We want to empower them to be good citizens and be productive and feel good about themselves."
The lack of finances and a place to go are primary reasons women stay in abusive situations, Filler said. By providing women with affordable housing and financial independence, the center can help them turn their lives around. Filler said the new campus with its fresh, inviting atmosphere promotes second chances, sending a message to women who have lost self worth that they are valued.
"It's going to make a difference in so many people's lives," she said.