A multi-million-dollar expansion and renovation project planned by Supporters of Abuse Free Environments (SAFE) was recently given a big boost as they are the recent beneficiaries of a $1 million Community Development Block Grant award to the City of Hamilton. The total project cost is estimated to be from $2.4 to $2.7 million, according to SAFE Executive Director Stacey Umhey.
The proposed expansion/renovation will double shelter bed capacity from four bedrooms to eight, replace shared baths with private ones for most bedrooms and create community space that allows for social distancing. In addition, the expansion will include two bedrooms, bath and living area that may be isolated for families presenting with symptoms of COVID. Specifically, the proposed expansion includes 4,200 square feet of new construction and 4,000 square feet of renovation and rehabilitation to group living spaces.
Renovated program space is designed to prevent COVID through shared living/dining and program space that allows for social distancing, and enhances ventilation through upgraded HVAC systems and working windows. New construction will focus on bedrooms with private baths, separately located on a new and fully accessible second floor to provide shelter for families in crisis with a trauma informed design.
The COVID pandemic has proven to be particularly challenging for those experiencing domestic or sexual violence, as isolating with an abusive family member increases potential for danger. In addition, the economic crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing housing crisis, and rendered safe community based housing nearly unavailable for many of those fleeing violent homes. This project will benefit individuals and families who have been rendered homeless due to domestic or sexual violence, but in addition the expanded shelter capacity will assist SAFE in providing emergency housing for those who are experiencing homelessness for reasons other than domestic or sexual violence.
“During SAFE’s last program year, 33 requests for shelter were unmet due to capacity,” said Umhey. “In this program year, there were 33 unmet requests in the first two months. Our community’s need for this critical safety net is clear and growing.”
Pre-development funds in the amount of $20,000 have been committed by the Rapp Family Foundation, a local foundation. SAFE is committing $100,892 in current operating funds for personnel costs to support the project implementation and capital campaign. But a lot more funds still need to be raised. SAFE has had several conversations with regional foundations, who have indicated preliminary support for the project pending the positive outcome of this CDBG application.
It is anticipated that contracts will be awarded for construction by July 2022, with construction complete in June 2023. Because the project will be completed in phases, limited shelter will be provided during much of the project, with SAFE providing offsite emergency shelter as needed.