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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Domestic Violence Shelter Fundraising Effort Points To Increased Need Mid-Pandemic

Company rendering of new Haven building to be constructed in 2021
Company rendering of new Haven building to be constructed in 2021

A domestic violence nonprofit in Bozeman this month launched a campaign to fundraise for a new shelter it announced last year, and it says the pandemic highlights the need for more safe spaces.

A rise in the rate of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic comes just as the shelter is most pressed for space.

Meghan Lockner with Bozeman domestic violence resource center Haven says demand for emergency shelter rose by a thousand percent when Governor Steve Bullock’s stay at home order lifted in April and survivors were able to get away from their abusers to seek help.

Haven has a dozen beds but Lockner says the shelter cut capacity in half to accommodate COVID-19 safety measures.

“Just to ensure that everyone was staying safe and properly distancing from each other and also accounting for if there was an exposure happening,” says Lockner. “We wanted to make sure that we were keeping all the participants and our staff as safe as possible.”

State health officials say communal spaces have been a primary setting for the spread of COVID-19.

Executive Director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Kelsen Young says concern about COVID-19 is something both shelter organizors and survivors contend with.

“It’s been incredibly difficult because most all the sheltering options we have in Montana have some element of communal living, right? So, a lot of people don’t want to go to shelter when they could be exposed to COVID,” she says. “Some people are desperate and need somewhere to go, and so then we have to figure out how to manage testing or quarantine, that kind of thing.”

Haven says the increased demand for beds during the pandemic highlights the need for its new building, which will more than triple the shelter’s capacity. Haven’s total fundraising goal is $8 million, and it plans to break ground next year. Meanwhile, Haven says it fits as many survivors as it can into its restricted number of beds and then books hotel rooms for those it cannot shelter itself.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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