In the wake of a crisis - sexual assault, domestic abuse - Advocates for Victims of Assault provides women and children in Summit County a safe place to stay at a local emergency shelter.
But the safe house is aging, beginning to fall apart and struggling to support the growing need in the community.
"We've really just had to make due with whatever rental space we could find," said Amy Jackson, director of the more than 30-year-old organization. "We've run into challenges over the years of not being able to do upgrades or improvements to property."
A year ago, she broke down and began exploring the idea of buying a newer property that would better meet the needs of the individuals Advocates serves. At first, it didn't seem possible. It's nearly impossible for nonprofit organizations, even well established ones, to receive funding.
Then Jackson learned of a funding opportunity through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development. Earlier this year, the organization received a $508,000 loan to buy a new safe house.
Advocates will close on the new building Tuesday.
The new shelter is bigger, brighter and in better shape than the old location, with an on-site detached garage which will be refinished to become the new office facility for the nonprofit, offering staff better ability to oversee the shelter and manage programming.
On May 1, Advocates' clients will be able to relocate to the new safe house.
The house, a four-bedroom former model home, will provide space for up to 20 women and children with food and programming provided free of charge. Clients, as the non-profit calls them, can stay in the shelter for up to 90 days while they regroup and figure out their next steps.
"Organizations like Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault make our communities safer and stronger by supporting survivors of sexual assault," U.S. Senator Michael Bennet stated in a release on the loan. "This new permanent emergency shelter will give victims in Summit County a place to find help and begin the healing process."
Advocates also supports individuals who were victims of domestic violence and trauma.
The average client stays roughly 60 days, but the need for sheltering has grown significantly in recent years.
"I think as the economy has gotten more challenging for people some of their needs have definitely increased," Jackson said. "We've definitely seen an increase in our number of residents and the length of stay."
The current shelter was once housing 25-35 women and children annually for an average of 600 safe nights ever year. That has increased to 45 or 50 women and children in need of shelter in recent years. The organization is now providing roughly 900 nights of shelter.
The organization plans to offer on-site therapy, classes and even activities like yoga at the new shelter, which was selected both for its size and its proximity to services including grocery stores, businesses and a police station.
The location of the shelter is not being disclosed for the safety of the residents.
Men will not be housed in the new shelter. Advocates provides shelter for male victims at local hotels free of charge.