Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse announces 2022 emergency shelter renovation to provide more COVID-safe and trauma-informed spaces for survivors of domestic abuse

TUCSON, Ariz. – November 9, 2021 – Thanks to matching investments of $1,000,000 each made by Pima County, the City of Tucson, and an anonymous donor honoring the Connie Hillman Family Foundation, Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse will renovate and expand our specialized emergency shelter for domestic violence survivors and their children.
Pre-pandemic, Emerge’s shelter facility was 100% communal – shared bedrooms, shared bathrooms, shared kitchen, and dining room. For many years, Emerge has been exploring a non-congregate shelter model to mitigate the many challenges trauma survivors can experience when sharing spaces with strangers during a tumultuous, frightening, and highly personal moment in their lives.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the communal model neither protected the health and well-being of participants and staff members, nor did it prevent the spread of the virus. Some survivors even chose to stay in their abusive homes because that felt more manageable than avoiding the risk of COVID in a communal facility. Therefore, in July 2020, Emerge relocated its emergency shelter operations to a temporary non-congregate facility in partnership with a local business owner, giving survivors the ability to flee violence in their homes while also protecting their health.
Though effective in mitigating the risks associated with the pandemic, this change came at a cost. In addition to the difficulties inherent in running a shelter out of a third-party commercial business, the temporary setting doesn’t allow for shared space where program participants and their children can form a sense of community.
The renovation of Emerge’s facility now planned for 2022 will increase the number of non-congregate living spaces at our shelter from 13 to 28, and each family will have a self-contained unit (bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette), which will provide a private healing space and will mitigate the spread of COVID and other communicable illnesses.
“This new design will allow us to serve significantly more families in their own unit than what our current shelter configuration allows, and shared community areas will provide the space for children to play and families to connect,” Ed Sakwa, Emerge CEO, said.
Sakwa also noted “It’s also much more costly to operate at the temporary facility. The building renovation will take 12–15 months to complete, and the COVID-relief federal funds that are currently sustaining temporary shelter arrangement are quickly running out.”
As part of their support, the anonymous donor honoring the Connie Hillman Family Foundation has issued a challenge to the community to match their gift. For the next three years, new and increased donations to Emerge will be matched so that $1 will be contributed for the shelter renovation by the anonymous donor for every $2 raised in the community for program operations (see details below).
Community members who want to support Emerge with a donation can visit https://emergecenter.org/give/.
The Director of the Pima County Behavioral Health Department, Paula Perrera said “Pima County is committed to supporting the needs of victims of crime. In this instance, Pima County is proud to support the excellent work of Emerge through use of American Rescue Plan Act funding to better the lives of Pima County residents and is looking forward to the finished product.”
Mayor Regina Romero added, “I am proud to support this important investment and partnership with Emerge, which will help provide a safe place for more domestic abuse survivors and their families to heal. Investing in services for survivors and prevention efforts is the right thing to do and will help promote community safety, health, and wellness.” 

Challenge Grant Details

Between November 1, 2021 – October 31, 2024, donations from the community (individuals, groups, businesses, and foundations) will be matched by an anonymous donor at a rate of $1 for every $2 of eligible community donations as follows:
  • For new donors to Emerge: the full amount of any donation will count toward the match (e.g., a gift of $100 will be leveraged to become $150)
  • For donors who made gifts to Emerge prior to November 2020, but who have not donated over the past 12 months: the full amount of any donation will count toward the match
  • For donors who made gifts to Emerge between November 2020 – October 2021: any increase above the amount donated from November 2020 – October 2021 will be counted toward the match

DVAM Series: Honoring Staff

Administration and Volunteers

In this week’s video, Emerge’s administrative staff highlight the complexities of providing administrative support during the pandemic. From rapidly changing policies to mitigate risk, to re-programming phones to ensure our Hotline could be answered from home; from generating donations of cleaning supplies and toilet paper, to visiting multiple businesses to locate and purchase items like thermometers and disinfectant to keep our shelter running safely; from revising employee services policies over and over to ensure staff had the support they needed, to quickly writing grants to secure funding for all the rapid changes Emerge experienced, and; from delivering food on site at shelter to give direct services staff a break, to triaging and addressing participant needs at our Lipsey Administrative site, our admin staff showed up in incredible ways as the pandemic rages on.
We’d also like to highlight one of the volunteers, Lauren Olivia Easter, who continued steadfast in her support of Emerge participants and staff during the pandemic. As a preventative measure, Emerge temporarily ceased our volunteer activities, and we sorely missed their collaborative energy as we’ve continued to serve participants. Lauren checked in with staff frequently to let them know she was available to help, even if it meant volunteering from home. When City Court re-opened earlier this year, Lauren was first in line to come back onsite to provide advocacy for survivors engaged in legal services. Our gratitude goes to Lauren, for her passion and dedication to serving individuals experiencing abuse in our community.