So when they set out to construct a new shelter for domestic violence survivors and their families, they focused on how the shelter could bring those comforts of home while also providing a place to heal.
“The VanDrake Shelter will impact the lives of numerous families for years to come. It was designed to be a place of healing and where clients can readily access support services to achieve their goals,” said REACH Director Andrea Anderson. “It reflects the commitment of REACH and our community to ensure a welcoming, accessible environment that provides dignity and empowerment for survivors and their children.”
Doors to the new 10-bedroom shelter were opened to the public last week so they could see what their donations and contributions created. The house has a computer lab, two kitchens and dining areas, an indoor and outside play area for small children, laundry facilities and bathrooms in every room.
Anderson said the computer lab is her favorite part of the house because it will allow staff members to help clients with building a resume, finding a job and teaching them about other resources available to help them get back on their feet.
Considering REACH has been cramped up in an old farmhouse with six bedrooms and only three bathrooms, Anderson and her staff are excited to move their clients into the new shelter by the end of the month.
“We had to turn away 89 people at the old shelter last year and find other resources for them because we were at capacity,” Anderson said. “But here we can almost double our occupancy.”
Each room has two double beds and has been adopted and decorated by a different church or civic organization in the community. Each room has its own style and personality — something Anderson hopes makes everyone staying there feel welcomed and relaxed.
The best thing about the shelter is that REACH will have zero debt to pay on it moving forward. Thanks to a $750,000 grant from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency and donations from local governments and individuals, REACH was able to pay for the entire $1.3 million project.
“The new shelter was truly a community effort. Financial commitments of all amounts, volunteer time and donations of household essentials — all of these things at every giving level made an impact,” Anderson said. “I feel when you walk into the shelter you can feel that support from the community and we hope that helps survivors and their children know they are not alone.”
There are still sponsorship opportunities at the shelter that will help REACH pay for a state-of-the-art security system that is being installed before the facility officially opens. Anderson said security is at the top of the priority list. She said the new shelter location is close enough to town so that families have the resources they need and law enforcement response times would be quick, but also far enough away where they feel safe and secluded from abusers.
Cameras line the outside walls of the facility, the outside play area is fenced in and all doors are secured. REACH offices are located in a separate building down in front of the shelter, which serves as a natural barrier from intruders, and a staff person will be onsite at all times.
With the additional space, The REACH shelter can accept more referrals from all over the region and even Northeast Georgia. REACH of Macon also serves domestic violence survivors in Jackson County since REACH of Jackson County shut down in 2012.
For more information about REACH or to make a donation to the new shelter, visit www.reachofmaconcounty.org.