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A Northern Wisconsin Community Opens a Shelter for Victims of Domestic Abuse Thanks to USDA and Community Funding Support

The time had come for a community to see what it has built when the Household Abuse Victims Emergency Network (HAVEN, Inc.) recently celebrated the grand opening of their new Domestic Abuse Shelter and Office Facility in the northern Wisconsin community of Merrill.

The newly renovated building will provide improved confidentiality and security, more office space and better facilities for staff to meet with clients. The larger shelter includes six bedrooms with a total of 24 beds, more bathrooms, a large new kitchen designed for convenient use by multiple residents, better laundry facilities, and is handicapped accessible. There is also a large living and dining area for residents, a children’s play room and a teen room. The lower level includes a room which can be used for groups or meetings.

Established in 1979, HAVEN, Inc. works to support the needs of the community by providing services to children, families, and adults who have been affected by abuse, violence, or sexual assault. When first started, the group used members’ homes for temporary shelters for abuse victims. It bought its first shelter building in 1989.

As the need for services grew, it became evident that a new, larger shelter was needed. A convenient building, the former Lincoln County Land Services Building known as “the Annex” was vacant with no prospective buyer. With $65,000 in the building fund, the HAVEN Board of Directors made an offer to the County Board for the Annex building, well below the County’s asking price of $249,000. The sale was unanimously approved last February.

Through a capital campaign, lead by volunteers, more than a half a million dollars was raised for the rehabilitation project. Community businesses and residents also donated materials, services, time, and furnishings to the new shelter. It was announced at the grand opening event that more than 2,800 volunteer hours were put towards the completion of the new facility.

HAVEN, Inc. was also awarded a $100,000 USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Grant for the renovation project. Grant funds were used toward the purchase of furnishings and equipment for the new shelter building including an elevator, sprinkler system, fencing, plumbing fixtures, a new security system, updated phone system, parking lot resurfacing, landscaping and cabinetry.  Additional funding came from the Merrill Housing Authority, WHEDA, the Merrill Community Foundation, private donations and in the form of a cooperative loan provided by three Merrill banks.

On behalf of USDA Rural Development, I presented HAVEN, Inc, board members, and staff with an award acknowledging the efforts and leadership used in obtaining the resources to see this project through to completion and for their dedication to improving the quality of life for victims of violence.

To find out more about USDA Rural Development programs click here.

The new shelter for victims of domestic violence in Merrill, Wisconsin, funded in part through a grant from USDA.

The new shelter for victims of domestic violence in Merrill, Wisconsin, funded in part through a grant from USDA.

Kelly Edwards, (right) representing USDA Rural Development presents HAVEN, Inc. Executive Director, Judy Woller, with a Certificate acknowledging the efforts of the community and surrounding county.

Kelly Edwards, (right) representing USDA Rural Development presents HAVEN, Inc. Executive Director, Judy Woller, with a Certificate acknowledging the efforts of the community and surrounding county.

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