YWCA: ‘We simply cannot find enough affordable housing’

Plans for apartments in Oxford are met with opposition.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

When the YWCA of Hamilton opened an $11 million building last year, employees there heard the story of a young mother attacked in front of her children. This woman was repeatedly choked and burned with cigarettes until she finally left the relationship.

YWCA officials were able to help her with temporary housing. But what happens next? Finding safe and affordable housing for victims of domestic violence has been incredibly difficult, CEO Wendy Waters-Connell told the Journal-News in an interview earlier this month.

Last year, officials said about half of the families in the YWCA shelter left without safe and stable housing.

“We simply cannot find enough affordable housing for these families,” Waters-Connell said.

She said her organization gets at least 100 calls seeking help every month. And when the new YWCA building opened in Hamilton last December, essentially doubling the size of the previous shelter, there were still more than 100 families on its waiting list.

That’s the impetus behind a plan submitted to Oxford officials for an apartment complex on Chestnut Street. This plan from the YWCA calls for permanent housing. It is not a domestic violence shelter, which houses people temporarily.

The plan has been met with opposition in Oxford.

At a recent city council meeting, residents expressed skepticism about low-income housing and how it might effect other residents. Multiple people at the meeting criticized existing subsidized housing in the city, according to the Oxford Observer.

“Those that live in the lower income levels are the most vulnerable in this population, and any population, and therefore have the greatest needs,” one resident said.

At a meeting in October, Oxford city council members voted 5-1 against a YWCA suggestion to forgo a bidding process and work exclusively work with them on the project. Officials said the request required them to move too fast without any assurances YWCA could get the appropriate funding.

This month, YWCA officials submitted a plan outlining a multi-story building with up to 38 apartment units, a playground and access to services people fleeing domestic violence might need.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Scott Rasmus, the executive director of Butler County’s Mental Health and Recovery Board, wrote a letter in support of the project.

“Families who are isolated and at risk need more resources,” Rasmus said. “Oxford families facing domestic violence are more isolated and have fewer resources to escape their environments than those in urban centers.”

Rasmus wrote this could be a “transformational decision” for families who need it most.

In Ohio, at least 112 people died in domestic violence incidents during a recent 12-month period, according to a study from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network

That number includes 22 children.

“We had not planned on building a second facility,” Waters-Connell said. “But we saw that need for the most vulnerable in our community.”

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