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).
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.”