Shelter House Purchases Building for New Program Office

January 18, 2015 by SoWal Staff

Tuesday was a historic date for Shelter House as the domestic and sexual violence center closed on the purchase of a building that will house its Program office. The Fort Walton Beach property will be home to the agency’s Outreach program and administrative personnel. The agency will move into the new space in the spring.
The purchase of the building was made possible through a $125,000 grant from Impact 100 as well as a $50,000 commitment from Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. Hurlburt Field’s Red Horse Squadron and St. Peter Catholic Church in Mary Esther have both pledged volunteers to assist with renovations on the new building.
“Many people are familiar with our emergency shelter, which houses more than 400 women and children each year,” said Shelter House Executive Director Michelle Sperzel. “However, we serve an additional 1,000 survivors of domestic and sexual violence annually through our Program office. Those people could be living on their own, staying with a friend, spending time in our shelter or, in many cases, still living with their abuser. This new building will enable us to serve more people in a safe, nurturing environment.”
Victims receiving services through the Program office have access to a giving closet, legal support, therapy, support groups and victim advocates. The need for the move came from expanding services and growing staff. In the past four years, Shelter House has added domestic violence support groups, Spanish speaking groups, mental health support groups, rape crisis services, economic empowerment, literacy, mental health therapy, child therapy and children’s groups.
Moving into a more spacious building means additional counseling offices, eliminating the need to shuffle offices when an advocate is meeting with a participant. The new space will also feature a children’s activity room, children’s therapy room and a group therapy room. A training/meeting room will provide space for community meetings and participant classes. In the second phase of the move, Shelter House plans to remodel one room as a medical exam room for rape kits to be collected by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, allowing victims to have the examination performed in a calm, supportive environment.
Renovations are scheduled to begin this month with the move planned for April. After the transition, Shelter House will hold a community open house and 30th anniversary party, as the agency celebrates its 1985 founding.
Shelter House is the state certified domestic and sexual violence center serving Okaloosa and Walton counties and offering emergency confidential shelter, crisis counseling, a 24-hour hotline, children’s programs, information and referrals, education, professional training, safety planning and prevention services to survivors of domestic violence and their children and sexual violence survivors.
If you feel that a family member or intimate partner is endangering your physical or emotional safety or if you have experienced sexual violence, call Shelter House’s hotline at 1-800-44-ABUSE or 850-863-4777.


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