YWCA in Michigan offers safe space for domestic and sexual violence victims October 1, 2016

This month YWCA West Central Michigan in Grand Rapids will celebrate completion of renovations to both its main office and its domestic violence emergency shelter, Sojourner House. On Oct. 12 and 13, the nonprofit will hold a reception and community open house.

The capital improvements to Sojourner House will allow the shelter to accommodate over 75 more women and children annually. The basement has been renovated to create space for child care so that victims have a safe place for their children to stay as they attend counseling sessions or job interviews and search for housing. Security systems also were upgraded and expanded.

At the facility on Sheldon Boulevard, a new Resource and Advocacy Center now houses a co-located, multi-disciplinary team of professionals who work together to support victims of domestic and sexual violence in the most comprehensive ways possible. The aim is to increase the safety of victims who otherwise must travel to multiple locations to put together the supports they need. New technology will allow victims unable to travel to the building to connect with YWCA staff and receive the same level of care.

Also created at Sheldon is an expanded medical suite to house the YWCA’s Nurse Examiner Program, which provides the community’s rape exams for both pediatric and adult victims. To improve accessibility, universal design elements along with a larger, modern elevator and elevator shaft replaced what existed previously. Throughout, LEED elements were incorporated and infrastructure related to security, HVAC, and phones were upgraded.

The unprecedented building boom in the West Michigan area caused construction costs to quickly surpass original projections. IFF stepped in, providing a $7.5 million new markets tax credit allocation to fill a financing gap for the $8.9 million project, with JPMorgan Chase as the equity investor. The NMTC equity allowed the YWCA to complete renovations without reducing the project’s original scope. The other funding source included Fifth Third Bank. The project will add five full-time jobs to a staff of over 78 employees.