BILLINGS - The YWCA plans on building a domestic violence shelter on land behind its office.
It just announced that it has received a $550,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to help construct the $4 million Gateway Horizons Shelter right next door to its Gateway Emergency Shelter.
Merry Lee Olson, YWCA Billings C.E.O., says domestic violence has increased since the start of COVID because of isolation and financial stress, and it will take more than its Gateway Emergency Shelter to help sexual violence and human trafficking victims.
"We realized we had to get the shelter going," Olson said. "There just simply is not enough capacity to serve all the women and children who need help. The women that we largely serve are victims both of poverty and violence. Many of them would not have a place to go if it wasn't for the shelter and then the housing that we also provide later in their cycle of healing from the trauma."
Olson talked about women that the YWCA helps at its current shelter.
"It takes an escalation of the violence against them, their children and family pets before they'll take that step," she said. "Once they make a decision to come in, then we're able to assist them in getting here discreetly."
With the $550,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a $1 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott more than a year ago, and other donations, the YWCA has $2.6 million for the $4 million dollar project.
"We've been blessed by some fairly large gifts from organizations outside of Billings," Olson said. "Our community is also stepping up and so we're finally going out and saying if you can, we really need your support."
Construction is scheduled to start in the Spring and the two-story, 25-unit shelter is expected to open in the fall.
"So it'll be a great facility for these people who are trying to get on their feet and start a life free from violence and poverty," Olson said.