Can pennies build a women's shelter? We're taking ideas

Jun 10 2012 - 9:39am

YCC Director Julee Smith has so many battered women coming for help that last year she turned away 50.

It's ugly when the battered women's shelter can't shelter a battered woman.

Julee didn't kick them into the street. She found another shelter or a hotel.

Still, it's an ugly trend.

Julee wants to expand her shelter but needs $350,000. After describing the situation she looked at me and asked, "Do you have any ideas?"

I looked back.

"Well, uh ..." I said.

I've raised money for MS. Last year I helped raise $15,000 for the United Way.

But nothing like $350,000. Neither has Julee. She said even the popular Real Men Can Cook fundraiser doesn't bring in a tenth of that, and that money's already spent anyway.

I could ask everyone to mail in a dollar.

Seriously, folks, one cent from each of you every three days for a year, we'd have it. You leave more than that in the convenience store penny jar when you get your change.

We need to find it somewhere. The YCC's current building is 30 years old. When built, everyone figured five shelter bedrooms ought to be plenty.

They aren't.

"We've got five rooms that have got to house 28 people," she said, and that includes both mothers and children, "so we have bunk beds, and when you get a pregnant lady in there, that's obviously not good."

Nor is it good that the room where caseworkers interview new clients is the same room in which someone else answers the crisis line.

"Seventy percent of our clients have children, and it is a little intake office," she said. "And if we get two families at once, that's a problem."

Money is scarce, even just to keep open her current, worn-out doors. Ever since the stock market crashed, foundations, her key support system, are rationing scarce funds.

In just one example, The Daniels Fund has funded her program to do repairs for old folks at home for five years.

"This year they told us they are helping someone else," Julee said. And she really can't criticize. The programs Daniels is helping (the Utah Food Bank and a Cedar City crisis shelter, among others) need help, too.

The United Way is focused on the new St. Anne Shelter's building fund, and the way it funds local charities shows the general strain. Julee said her grant from United Way has dropped from $100,000 a year to $15,000.

Economize? Julee's cut her own budget from $2 million to $1.5 million. She has cut programs, trimmed staff, applied to every foundation in sight, pays her workers so little they qualify for food aid, and she's still looking at an operating deficit of more than $100,000.

Meanwhile the women's shelter, her core business, is jammed.

The $350,000 to expand the shelter is after a really nice local contractor did its best to plan carefully, bid cheap and donate a chunk of its work.

Julee showed me the existing shelter, which took about 45 seconds. It's one big common room, five bedrooms. That's it.

She showed me where the extension would be built over the current community room.

We sat in her office, under the water stain from the leak in the roof, and she told me all the stuff I just got done telling you.

Then she said she needs $350,000.

So, how about a dollar from each of you? One cent every three days for a year?

Yeah, I know, it costs 45 cents to mail it. So find a friend and double up.

Unless you have any better ideas. I don't.

The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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