Domestic violence shelter receives grant

DTE Foundation provides YWCA with funding to support community.
The YWCA’s Sojourner House offers expanded living and child care spaces for families in transition. Courtesy John Corriveau Photography

The YWCA West Central Michigan was one of the 45 domestic violence shelters in the state to receive grants from the DTE Energy Foundation totaling $420,000.

“These shelters’ reputations and bodies of work give us confidence that the support and services they provide to survivors is top notch, and the funding we’re providing will allow them to continue to help so many people in need,” said Lynette Dowler, president of the DTE Foundation. “We’re not only offering assistance to a strained shelter system struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic, we’re shining a bright light on an issue that affects many of our friends, family members and neighbors.”

Charisse Mitchell, CEO for the YWCA West Central Michigan, said the organization received a little over $11,000 to continue providing support to the community. 

“The programs and services we offer range from emergency shelter, transitional support and housing to legal advocacy, support groups, individual and group counseling, (and) supervised and supportive parenting time and exchange,” she said. “Our nursing examiner program provides advocacy support and medical forensic exams for sexual assault victims.”

The YWCA West Central Michigan serves more than 4,000 people of all genders including children. Mitchell said the organization will use the grant to continue to support individuals and families, especially those who are in the shelter. 

“There are a number of supports beyond a warm bed and a safe place to sleep, but to help them transition to face independent living,” she said. “We know, especially now in Grand Rapids where the housing stock is quite limited, it was a struggle to find safe and affordable housing before. That challenge is even greater now. We know that the eviction moratorium and things like that are being lifted and people are trying to get back to work, to jobs, and to find child care and help their kids in transitioning into school, so it is for continued support for the many people who will be staying in our shelter and seeking support throughout the year.”

Mitchell said the pandemic has had a multifaceted impact on the organization and the families it serves and it has had to adjust. While most places were closed during the early months of the pandemic, the shelter remained open. The organization purchased new technology and supplies such as personal protective equipment and air purifiers. It upgraded staff so the facility could undergo deep cleaning and sanitization on a regular basis. 

The organization was able to virtually provide therapy, advocacy services and support groups to families. It also provided direct assistance to domestic abuse survivors and others. Domestic violence-related calls doubled during the early stages of the pandemic at the shelter’s 24-hour hotline. Nationally, domestic violence calls increased by 8%.

“Domestic violence shelters save lives,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. “They provide critical services to survivors and come to them with help and wraparound support at some of the darkest points in their lives. Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer and I are incredibly thankful for the work the DTE Energy Foundation continues to do to support domestic violence shelters throughout Michigan. We are confident this third round of grants will go far toward supporting the professionals working on the front lines to lift up survivors and communities and end domestic violence in Michigan.”

The YWCA West Central Michigan also assisted families who were in its transitional housing program and lost their jobs by providing educational support, rental and utility assistance, and food and supplies for kids who needed to purchase tablets, laptops and have Wi-Fi access.

“We certainly hope that businesses and organizations follow DTE’s example and find ways to connect and be a part of that work that is providing support to people who are hurting, who need to know that they are not alone and there are resources out there,” Mitchell said. “We want to be visible and as accessible as possible, and DTE is helping us to do that.”

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