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You Are Welcome at the YWCA

For over a century, Salt Lake City women have had a place they can go for help in escaping and preventing domestic violence, building strong and healthy relationships, and working on their communication, anger management and self-care skills.

The YWCA of Salt Lake City, is not only a welcoming sanctuary for straight women, but for all members of Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

With the exception of its residential housing, said Keri Jones, chief program officer at YWCA, the organization’s programs welcome all who need them, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We’re known for our shelter, but that’s not all we provide,” she said. ‘We have a myriad of other resources for people who are considering leaving home, or who are just testing the water and want to understand what options may be available for them [if they leave].”

These programs include childcare for kindergarten age and younger and which is open to parents of all sexes, a “psycho-educational” community group centered on topics like assertiveness training and coping with grief and loss, and a Family Justice Center, which Jones describes as “a co-location model of services.”

“We have brought over 10 agencies in the community under one roof on our campus to meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence” including the Department of Workforce Services, the Multi-Cultural Legal Center, the Salt Lake City Prosecutors Office and the Sego Lily Center for the Abused Deaf. The goal of keeping these services on one campus, explained Jones, is to help people using the YWCA to easily access a number of organizations that they may need in everything from getting restraining orders to helping immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens seek legal residency.

“It’s a great place to start for women and men,” she said. “It’s a place to get information and find out what your options are.”

While the YWCA campus’ secure residential facilities are only open to individual women and women with children, Jones stressed that this housing is open to all women or female-identified people. This housing includes both a new 76 bed shelter that offers women and their children a private room and bathroom.

“People can find a little more space away from the community now whereas at the old shelter they were living on top of each other,” she said.

The campus also has two transitional housing programs: a residential facility that can house up to 12 women without children who are working on becoming self-sufficient, and an apartment complex with 36 rooms for women with children.

Additionally, she said that YWCA staff and volunteers are working hard to make sure that queer women feel welcome by doing such things as using gender-neutral language during intake and groups.

“We’re here to be a guide and a resource and for emotional support,” she said. “We want to be here to intervene at whatever level she may need us. If that means housing or shelter or meeting with an attorney or a police officer or social worker, any of those things can be done on our campus.”

Recently, the YWCA of Salt Lake City received a $35,347 grant from Avon Foundation for Women that will be used, said YWCA Salt Lake City Chief Executive Officer Anne Burkholder, to help fund its myriad programs.

“With these funds we will be able to aid victims and survivors of family violence on creating financial safety plans, working toward goals for financial independence; providing them with knowledge and individualized guidance to understand and utilize the financial, educational and employment resources that will contribute to their success,” she said.

However, the organization, like all nonprofit service providers, is always in need of financial help to assist the demands for services created by the ongoing recession — during which domestic violence rates have spiked. To make a donation, visit ywca.org/saltlakecity.

For those who prefer to donate items, the YWCA is accepting donations of new toys, clothing and household items for Candy Cane Corner, its holiday store that allows families using it services to shop for gifts. The store is annually run in cooperation with Volunteers of America, Utah and The Road Home.

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