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Wednesday, 09 April 2014 13:32

Domestic violence and sexual abuse shelter looks to expand in Macon

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Fundraising for a $1.3-million shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse is underway in Macon County, with REACH of Macon County hoping to move to a new building by September 2015. 

“This has been a dream from the beginning,” said Jennifer Turner-Lynn, prevention coordinator and incoming assistant director for REACH. “We’ve always wanted to build the shelter here, and we feel the time is right.”

 

In July, REACH will find out whether its application for a $908,555 grant from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency was successful, and it’s already kicked off a campaign to raise the $302,852 match required from the community. 

“I’d say it’s competitive,” Turner-Lynn said of the grant, “but I’d say we’re in a good position to secure the grant.” 

REACH will look to individuals, organizations and fundraising events in the community to meet its goal.  It’s a lot of money, but the expansion is definitely needed, Turner-Lynn said. 

Currently, REACH rents a shelter building 7 miles outside of Franklin, while the administrative offices sit on a 14-acre property that it owns, just outside the town limits. The shelter’s secluded spot has its perks — families who need its services can count on a confidential location — but the distance can also pose problems to clients for whom transportation is an issue. 

Though the new location will be more public, Turner-Lynn said, a state-of-the-art security system, the daytime presence of REACH employees and buy-in from the community will combine to make the new shelter a safe place.

“If you look at it from a strength-based perspective, there is something to be said for the community taking ownership of shelters,” she said. “People tend to take more ownership when they know it’s something that needs to be protected.”

And the new shelter will allow more people in need of protection to receive it. The current building has just six bedrooms for a maximum occupancy of 12, a ceiling that REACH has hit many times over the past few years. In the last two years, the shelter has been 100 percent full much of the time, and too often, REACH has had to turn people away. 

“In the last six months, we’ve had to turn away about 14 families,” Turner-Lynn said. 

The plans call for a 10-bedroom, 20-bed facility with all bedrooms connected to another by a door, intended to make the shelter better suited to families seeking refuge from abusers. Each bedroom will have its own bathroom, and the entire building will be accessible to people with disabilities, whereas now only part of the building is accessible. Other features will include a laundry room, an outdoor fenced-in play area, a children’s play room, a covered patio, storage closets for residents, a conference room, two dining areas, a great room and a kitchen.  

The shelter serves an important purpose for families, Turner-Lynn said, giving them a safe place to stay and resources to look for the next step. Those services are made all the more important by REACH of Macon County’s distance from other shelters for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. The closest services are at least 45 minutes away, with facilities in Cherokee and in Swain, Haywood and Clay counties. Basically, people in Macon and Jackson counties depend exclusively on REACH of Macon County to fill that niche, because 45 minutes is a long way to go without completely uprooting one’s life. 

“If you don’t have a vehicle and you don’t have unlimited funds, what are you going to do?” Turner-Lynn said. 

Without REACH of Macon County, many people would find themselves asking that question. Between Aug. 1, 2013, and Jan. 31, the shelter served 361 different people, 242 from Macon County and 119 from Jackson County. And from July 1, 2013, to Feb. 1, the organization handled 445 hotline calls. 

“Domestic violence and sexual abuse happens in our community,” Turner-Lynn said, “and it happens a lot more prevalently than many people know, understand, believe.” 

To that end, REACH is hoping that the grant comes through and counting on the community to help it reach its goal of breaking ground by November. It’s a big project, Turner-Lynn said, but the need is there and the time is right. 

“It makes sense for us to move forward,” she said. 

 

 

Help build a shelter

Donations of any size are welcome in REACH’s effort to meet the $302,000 fundraising goal. Donations of $2,500 and more, from individuals or groups, can qualify for naming opportunities. Donations can be given online at www.reachofmaconcounty.org or sent through the mail to P.O. Box 228, Franklin, N.C. 28734. 

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