City to build first new domestic violence shelter in more than a decade

May 29, 2013

(WBEZ/Natalie Moore)
VersAnnette Blackmon is a survivor of domestic violence. She says more shelter beds are needed in the city.

For the first time in a decade, the city of Chicago will open a new domestic violence shelter.

The shelter will operate in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, increasing the number of available beds from 112 to 152.

It will be the biggest in the city and is expected to serve as many as 100 families a year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Wednesday.

VersAnnette Blackmon is a survivor of domestic violence and mother of two. Finding a shelter at the time she sought help was disheartening.

“In order for you to get in, you have to get on a waiting list and when you’re in a situation, and you have nowhere to go, a waiting list really doesn’t help you all that much,” Blackmon said.

Shelters can offer a safe space and connect families to counseling and legal services. According to the city Chicago police respond to nearly 200,000 domestic calls annually.

The shelter will be suite-based, meaning it will house two families for every bathroom to promote privacy. The City Department of Family and Support Services is partnering with Women in Need Growing Stronger (WINGS,) Metropolitan Family Services and the Greater Southwest Development Corporation to build the shelter slated to open in June 2014. The construction cost is $4.2 million and the city will contribute $1.8 million from settlement in a lawsuit filed against a local strip club.

Emanuel also announced $123,000 will go toward court advocates to assist domestic violence victims as they go through legal proceedings.

Natalie Moore is WBEZ’s South Side bureau reporter. Follow her @natalieymoore.