Initially, when the new local domestic violence shelter opened in April the plan included funding from a number of sources to “keep the lights on” and doors open to all who needed it.

Initially, when the new local domestic violence shelter opened in April the plan included funding from a number of sources to “keep the lights on” and doors open to all who needed it.

Based on previous statistics at the former shelter, the board for Safe Alternatives for Abused Families, aka SAAF, projected their needs into the future, however, the need has far outdistanced that which was projected.

The shelter has been in use for five, nearly six months, and there have only been two days in all that time when there have been no residents seeking shelter, Director Molly McDonald explained to the Ramsey County Commissioners at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

At this rate their budget will be spent long before the end of the year comes around.
McDonald explained that the shelter serves a seven-county area, including the Spirit Lake Nation. Each area it serves put in an initial donation of $5,000 to get the building up and running. She was now going around to all those supporting entities and asking for further assistance to “keep the doors open” and the lights on, so to speak.

The problem?
The need and use of the shelter is beyond what they had anticipated. So what can they do?
Board member Brenda Langerud said they had discussed several options including closing the shelter one or two days each week, to cut expenses.
She said it costs approximately $516 a day to keep the shelter open. That figure includes salary for a houseparent to supervise the shelter 24/7.

Fundraisers are planned to help with the budget shortfall, too. A fundraising steak fry is coming this Friday, Sept. 22 at Lotta’s in downtown Devils Lake starting at 5 p.m. Another fundraiser is planned for Oct. 19 at the Memorial Building but something more permanent is needed to sustain the shelter in the long term.

The commissioners asked several questions of McDonald and Langerud. McDonald explained that the shelter has five bedrooms, but one is presently being used as an office. They have housed as many as nine people - a mom and children - at one time.

Commissioner Adam Leiphon asked about their main funding sources and McDonald outlined the state and federal grants they had applied for and received but related the time lag they had experienced between receiving funding and the actual issuing of funds from the federal government. “Where it used to take a week or two to get the funding, once it was released,” McDonald said. “Now it takes more like six weeks to actually get the money.” That time lag alone is a big problem.

The commission agreed that it was important to keep the shelter open, especially given the need that exists. They voted to give an additional $5,000 out of this year’s General Fund to help “keep the lights on.”