YWCA Hamilton seeks state funds to expand safety for domestic violence survivors

The YWCA Hamilton is set to receive $400,000 outlined in Sub. House Bill 2 to expand its Permanent Supportive Housing for families fleeing domestic violence.

At the end of 2022, the YWCA opened a new permanent supportive housing facility that has units for 15 families seeking refuge from domestic violence, relocating to 1570 Grand Blvd. off Ohio 4. Weeks after the facility opened, YWCA Hamilton Executive Director Wendy Waters-Connell said the organization is in need of another facility.

The $400,000 is in a bill approved by the Ohio House earlier this month and is expected to be considered by the Ohio Senate after the March primary election. This will contribute toward a three-story building with at least 38 units for families seeking housing assistance. Dwellings would each have two or three bedrooms.

The location of this facility is yet to be determined, said Waters-Connell, though they have explored sites in Hamilton and Oxford. She said they plan to have a location identified by the end of the year, along with the first part of the fundraising.

The cost of the building will be a moving target as it’s a multi-year project and construction costs have been hard to project in recent years.

The goal is to have funding secured by November 2025, which includes about a collective $4 million in smaller capital commitments, including the $400,000 from Sub. House Bill 2. Waters-Connell said they’ll also seek a competitive $10 million-plus PHS grant.

If funding works out, the YWCA could break ground by July 2026 and construction would take about 18 months.

Domestic violence is considered a “silent epidemic,” and sometimes it’s called an “invisible epidemic.” Worldwide, 27% of women experience violence over their lifetimes, according to ScienceDirect.com, and it’s more than 40% in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Ohio last year, there were 112 fatalities in 82 cases, where 78 were victims of domestic violence (not all were women), and 22 children were killed.

At the YWCA’s shelter, known as the Dove House, there were nearly 9,300 nights of safety provided for families.

Waters-Connell said it’s never enough as “even 38 units sometimes feels like a drop in a bucket, but for those families, it’s potentially the start for intergenerational change. That is where we feel the impact can be because we’ll have a connection to kids, and getting them connected to services that will stop the cycle of violence.”

The $11 million facility that opened in late 2022 has 15 units for domestic violence on one floor, but the other floors are dedicated to homeless women.

“You take the families who are in our shelter who have no place to go, no access to safe and affordable housing, this property would be for them,” Waters-Connell said. “We will get them into safe, affordable housing so they can chart a course to a life without violence.”

The Dove House is full consistently and she said as soon as a survivor has transitioned out, that unit is filled within hours.

There has been increased nationwide media coverage about homelessness, Waters-Connell said the shelter the YWCA is offering “is a unique category of need and it does not fall into the same definition or structure of complexity that regular homeless folks face. These are families fleeing violence.”

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