Nearly twice as many women and children stayed in the Gateway Domestic Violence Center’s emergency shelter in 2017 compared to the year before, according to a report released by the nonprofit.
In 2016, the domestic violence center helped a combined 127 women and children with emergency shelter. In 2017, that number jumped to 225.
“We’re seeing a consistent need for domestic violence shelter space in the community, and we stay full beyond capacity most nights,” said Jessica Butler, the nonprofit’s executive director. “We really try to be diligent about reaching out to possible referral sources, like law enforcement officers, (Division of Family and Children Services) and court professionals who may encounter victims of domestic violence through their work.”
Gateway Domestic Violence Center
Crisis hotline: 770-536-5860
The average length of stay in the shelter was 36 days. The shelter consistently stayed one person on average above its 18-bed capacity.
The report also noted a 45 percent increase in crisis calls taken by the shelter, jumping from 880 calls in 2016 to 1,273 calls in 2017.
Toward the end of 2016, Butler made one position at the center solely focus on answering such calls.
“A lot of times, the people who call us don’t even want in-person services, but they really want advice and help over the phone anonymously. We’re really pleased to be able to offer that service as well,” she said.
When looking at their numbers internally, Butler said the majority of clients served were living in Gainesville and north of the city.
Concerned that people in the outlying areas of Hall County were not seeking the agency’s services, Butler announced the opening of a Flowery Branch outreach office that opened in March.
Advocates can meet with people at the South Hall location to provide emotional support, safety planning or help finding resources in the area. Butler said interest in the South Hall office has picked up in the past couple of months.
Gateway is also almost halfway to its $2.5 million fundraising goal for a larger facility. As of Friday, Aug. 3, Butler said the center has reached $1.2 million.
The lease on the current Gateway property will expire on Dec. 31, 2020. Butler said the agency is on track to be in a larger facility before that date.
Despite the increases in emergency shelter need and crisis calls, the number of women and children in transitional housing decreased. According to the report, 54 women and children lived in transitional housing in 2017 compared to 127 women and children in 2016.
One possible explanation, Butler said was having some families staying through the entire year.