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Gateway builds additional transitional housing units for domestic violence victims
Gateway House administrative assistant Karen Staley, right, and family advocate Herminia Fonseca unpack kitchen items inside a new Gateway House transitional apartment.

After years of planning, fundraising and a few weather-related setbacks over the summer, construction of Gateway Domestic Violence Center’s four new transitional apartments was completed on time.

The apartments will serve as a temporary home for women and their children while they save money to afford a place of their own, usually around six months. Survivors of domestic violence will be able to move into the two-bedroom apartments in the next few days.

Though the residents living in the shelter haven’t yet seen the building, it is already generating a lot of buzz.

“When I spoke with one of my clients about these apartments, she got so excited,” Gateway family advocate Herminia Fonseca said. “She said ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I want to go live in there. I want to feel like I don’t live in a shelter anymore.”

The shelter currently operates another building with an emergency shelter and three small transitional apartments.

The location of either building is not disclosed for the protection of the women and children.

Eventually, three more apartments and a community room will be added onto the newest building. Fundraising for the next phase is currently underway.

For now, Executive Director Jessica Butler said she’s just excited to see the completion of new homes that will help women get back on their feet.

Butler praised the many organizations and volunteers who helped make the homes possible.

“We actually had so many community partners and so many different organizations that helped,” Butler said. “It’s like every little detail is something that a group worked on.”

The land was donated by the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville in 2010. A $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs provided funding for the building. Additional support was provided by the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County, First Baptist Church Hearts and Hands Emporium, United Way of Hall County and Habitat for Humanity.

United Way of Hall County provided a community investment grant to purchase furnishings. Volunteers from the group also assisted with moving and setting up the furniture last week.

Jackie Wallace, United Way of Hall County president, said it was exciting to know the group’s help will improve the lives of women in the community.

“You think about the women who have truly been afraid and to move into a place that is new and clean and fresh and safe, I think that is just so empowering,” Wallace said.

Wallace said the amount of community support for the project through volunteers and donations is “just another sign of what a generous community we live in.”

Simple things, like making donations of money, necessities, or time can make a lasting difference in the lives of people in need, Wallace said.

“We really want to say to them, ‘You’ve got somebody on your side. You’re not facing this alone,’” Wallace said. “‘You’ve got somebody who cares about you and cares about your children and wants you to have a life that’s free of violence.’ And if we can hang some blinds and move some furniture and sweep some floors to make that possible, we’re glad to do it.”

The center helps about 1,000 people each year, the majority seeking assistance with protective orders and support groups. Almost 200 women and children come through the shelter each year.

The center still needs a few additional items such as linens, toiletries, and cleaning supplies. A wish list is on the center’s website, Donations can be left at either of the Gateway Thrift Stores on Dawsonville Highway or Park Hill Drive in Gainesville.

Butler and a few staff members and volunteers carried the last few boxes of necessities into one of the apartments Thursday before the first family moves in.

The women stood in the small, open kitchen and looked around the room.

Butler said she thinks having the new space and new furnishings will show women how much the community cares about them and their personal struggles.

Alice Volk, a longtime volunteer with the center, nodded her head with approval as she eyed the space.

“It’s open. It’s modern,” Volk said. “It looks like a place to be happy.”

If a family is in need of assistance, call the center’s 24-hour crisis line, 770-536-5860.