Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Stockman Bank, Other Montana Funders, and Local Donors are Helping
BILLINGS, MT — YWCA Billings began construction this week on the development of a second domestic violence shelter on the organization’s campus. YWCA launched the project in January 2021 following an unrestricted $1 million surprise gift from philanthropist, MacKenzie Scott. The new Gateway Horizons Shelter will provide women and children and other victims desperately needed protection from their abusers.
For the past 25 years YWCA Billings has provided safe harbor at its existing Gateway Shelter for people fleeing domestic abuse, sexual violence and human trafficking. The women and children who stay there receive multiple services, including shelter, legal services, counseling and support in finding housing¾all at no charge. Gateway Shelter is the only 24-hour/365 day per year secured facility in an 18,500 square mile area, and last year the people who came there for protection were from 22 of Montana’s 56 counties, three American Indian Reservations, and seven other states.
The two-story, 24-hour secured facility will provide 25 studio apartments, laundry facilities, a food pantry, counseling and case management offices, and YWCA’s 24/7 help lines where 4,775 callers were assisted in the last year.
The new shelter will increase YWCA’s capacity by 300 percent. “Over the life of the new shelter, thousands of women and children will be assisted with live-saving sheltering and life-changing wrap-around services. With our help, families can heal from the complex trauma of violence and poverty,” says Merry Lee Olson, YWCA Billings, CEO.
Olson says that the new project also helps to build a better, safer community. “Domestic violence is not just a relationship problem. It is a community issue that results in millions of dollars of impact annually,” she adds. “By sheltering victims of domestic violence in a safe haven and enveloping them with support services to assist in their healing from the trauma of abuse, we improve their health and wellness, decrease impacts on emergency services and the courts, reduce crime, and prevent them from becoming homeless.”
Domestic violence and poverty are the top two causes of homelessness in our region, and more than 98 percent of the people YWCA serves are experiencing both dilemmas. If these victims must resort to homelessness to escape abuse, they join the growing number of people living on the streets.
Through the generosity of foundations that include the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, the Gianforte Foundation, Treacy Foundation; organizations such as Neighbor-Works MT and Big Horn County, MacKenzie Scott, and other funders and donors in Billings and the region, YWCA has received and has awards pending that total $2.9 million of the $4 million needed for the project.
“Now that we have broken ground, we are racing to the finish line funding-wise. We are reaching out to the community to help us get there,” says Olson.
To fully fund the Gateway Horizons project YWCA still needs to raise $1.1 million. Supporters can donate at Venmo @ywcabillings; by calling YWCA Billings at 406-2526303; online at www.ywcabillings.org/donate/ or mailing contributions to YWCA‒Gateway Horizons, 909 Wyoming Avenue, Billings, MT 59101.