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YWCA Billings gets $550K grant for new domestic violence shelter

Feb 7, 2022

Story provided by Billings Gazette. You can find the original story here: https://billingsgazette.com/news/local/ywca-billings-gets-550k-grant-for-new-domestic-violence-shelter/article_529c8c55-5163-50e2-9742-ed835a76a6e0.html


YWCA Billings has received a $550,000 grant to support 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 latest grant comes from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.


The new shelter will be a two-story, 24-hour secured facility. The building will house 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.


“Safety is one of our core needs as humans. We appreciate the work of organizations like YWCA Billings that provide critical support to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking. This new emergency shelter will help more women and children find safe haven, support and healing. That kind of healing is a blessing not only for those individuals and families, but for the community as a whole, now and into the future,” said Steve Moore, executive director of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.


The new Gateway Horizons Shelter will provide women and children who desperately need protection from their abusers with life-saving housing and life-changing services, said Merry Lee Olson, YWCA CEO.


Merry Lee Olson
Merry Lee Olson, CEO

YWCA Billings’ programs serve to end family homelessness caused by domestic violence and poverty, the top two causes of homelessness and more than 98 percent of the people YWCA serves are experiencing both.


YWCA Billings’ existing Gateway Emergency Shelter is the only 24-hour year-round secured facility in an 18,512 square mile area. 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. If these victims must resort to homelessness to escape abuse, they join the growing number living on the streets as a result of domestic violence.


The Gateway Emergency Shelter has provided refuge for victims of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking since 1998.


Prior to COVID, YWCA provided an average of 8,500–9,500 shelter nights annually. Then COVID increased the demand. Requiring people to isolate themselves with an abuser coupled with financial stress created a ticking time bomb for relationships, Olson said. Home isolation meant there was no protection from abuse. Once stay-at-home restrictions lifted, requests for sheltering and services went up. YWCA has struggled to keep sheltered people healthy in its outdated communal living facility that does not provide health-protecting separation.


“With the significant upward trend in the number of domestic violence cases and the severity of the violence, we shifted our development focus from building more affordable housing apartments to constructing a new emergency shelter that will protect women and families in individual units that would each have a kitchenette, private bathroom, and sleeping areas,” Olson said.


Through the generosity of the Murdock Trust, MacKenzie Scott, NeighborWorks MT, and other funders and donors, YWCA has received and has awards pending that total $2.6 million of the $4 million needed for the project. “With groundbreaking scheduled for early spring, we are now racing to the finish line funding-wise. We are reaching out to the community to help us get there,” said Olson.


The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to nonprofit organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, social, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.


For additional information or to make a donation to the Gateway Horizons project or the organization, call 406-252-6303 or go to www.ywcabillings.org or Venmo @ywcabillings.

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