New Shelterhouse state-of-the-art facility expands services and provides best practice assistance

The two year-long venture of the construction of the new Shelterhouse facility reached completion and became fully operational on April 1, 2020.

Shelterhouse was created in 1976 to serve as a safe haven for survivors in Midland and Gladwin counties who are suffering from domestic violence and sexual assault by providing resources for counseling, shelter and advocacy.

The new facility is the result of a $7.2 million capital campaign that launched in 2018. The brand new, 25,000-square-foot expanded client services center is located at 2500 Waldo Ave. in Midland.

The new Shelterhouse facility was designed and built by TRC.

The organization had outgrown the previous facility and was bursting at the seams with increasing demand for services. Realizing the need, conversations began about creating a space that could increase best practice, centralize and expand services and allow for more community interaction.

Midland residents Angela and Don Sheets were early supporters for the new facility and used their professional experience to promote the project.

“It was something that Don and I could do together,” Angela says. “We knew the need, we have the relationships and we felt we could make the difference. We each have two different skill sets and this project needed both.”

Due to previous space limitations, on average over the last five years Shelterhouse has had to turn away 377 families.

Don is a former Vice Chairman for Dow Corning Corporation and helped find and secure the property for the new facility and provided financial insight for the capital campaign.

With her previous experience working as the Communications Manager at Dow Chemical Company, Angela focused on fundraising and public relations efforts. She also previously served as a Shelterhouse board member between 2011-2013.

“I felt like Shelterhouse wasn’t getting its fair share of visibility in terms of community support and involvement because there is an element of privacy and security around it,” Angela says. “You can’t just walk in off the street and stuff envelopes or help in some way. We contribute in many other organizations in town, but at that time Shelterhouse didn’t really have a community champion. We saw a great opportunity to help make a difference.”

To be able to have a facility designed from the ground up, to work productively and so that the new facility is able to meet the needs of residents, and be a helpful and healing place for people is a tremendous opportunity.

Currently, 97% of the $7.2 million needed for the capital campaign has been raised.

“It’s important to be able to sustain the facility with our new and bigger footprint. While it will be more economic from a utilities standpoint, there must be funds to repair and maintain it,” Angela says. “That’s part of the efforts of the capital campaign that we’re trying to raise. We have enough money to build it and now we’re trying to sustain it.” “This facility is owned by the community. It is made up of neighbors coming together to help others in our community," says Ouderkirk.

The new facility is a big change from the 7,000-square-foot converted residential home that Shelterhouse was previously using on M-20. The home was built in 1925 and Shelterhouse remodeled it to fit their purposes. 

“They’ve made do by changing walls and rearranging things, and had been doing a great job with it, but it was never built or designed for the purpose that it’s being used now,” Angela says.

Shelterhouse bought their previous location on M-20 from the county in 1998 for $192,000 and then spent $500,000 to remodel the building.

“It’s been doing such incredible work, but people in crisis who are sharing spaces, and just having to turn so many people away; we can do better than that,” Angela says.

Due to space limitations, on average over the last five years Shelterhouse has had to turn away 377 families.

“When we get a call, we don’t say, ‘Sorry we’re full,’ and hang up the phone,” Shelterhouse Executive Director Janine Ouderkirk says. “We work with them to develop a safety plan, maybe we can find room at a shelter in another community until we have space.”

“It’s really important to me that every single person in our community has a chance to point at this building and say, ‘I helped’,” Ouderkirk says.

“If we don’t have room and they’re in imminent danger, we have roll-away beds or the couch that they can sleep on or if they’re Midland or Gladwin County residents in imminent danger we pay for a hotel, so that’s an added expense, says Ouderkirk.”

The former Shelterhouse facility has six bedrooms and has been operating at capacity 97 percent of the time between 2013-2017. Of that time, 81 percent has been operating over capacity.

“It creates a lot of anxiety,” Ouderkirk says. “People who have gone through trauma don’t need that. We knew we’ve outgrown it, we are all on top of each other sharing offices and all kinds of things. The new facility makes it much more client friendly, with meeting space, workroom space and more.”

“It had to be within the city limits because of police response time,” Ouderkirk says. “And there had to be a plan for expansion."

The new location will triple their capacity with a total of 48 beds within 15 suites. It not only will increase the size of living and allow for more privacy, but there will also be many new features.

Some of the suites are pet-friendly. Shelterhouse currently works with Howl-a-Day Resort in Midland to make arrangements to kennel client’s pets. Ouderkirk says a grant helps to pay for that, but with the pet-friendly suites it’s an expense they will no longer have.

“When in crisis, people also have to take their pet, or service animal, with them,” Shannon Tait, Manager of Commercial Projects for Three Rivers Corporation (TRC), says. “There are areas designated to accommodate that.  You might think that’s a simple task, but there are a myriad of items to be considered.  It’s details like making sure your HVAC system isn’t cross-contaminating with other suites, what floor finishes will be the most durable, and how do you address the transference of dander onto the floor finishes.”

Shannon Tait, Manager of Commercial Projects at TRC.

TRC designed and constructed the new Shelterhouse facility.

“To be able to have a facility designed from the ground up, to work productively and so that the new facility is able to meet the needs of residents, and be a helpful and healing place for people is a tremendous opportunity,” Angela says.

When the conversations for designing the new facility began, Ouderkirk says had two requirements: the new facility must be within city limits, and there had to be room for growth. One of the rooms inside the new Shelterhouse facility.

“It had to be within the city limits because of police response time,” Ouderkirk says. “And there had to be a plan for expansion. Whoever the executive director is 20 years from now, I don’t want them cursing me if they are all on top of each other again. I would like if someday it could become a nursing home or something and we didn’t need it, but I don’t see that happening.”

The organization does much more than just provide residents with a safety net. Only 20 percent of the clients they serve actually need shelter. Shelterhouse also provides free services such as advocacy and counseling to non-residential clients.

Ouderkirk says that organizations within Midland work hard to avoid duplicating services.

“We’ve worked hard not to duplicate what other local organizations are doing to help those in need,” Ouderkirk says. “Midland is very collaborative that way, we work together well.”

One of the organizations Shelterhouse collaborates with is Home to Stay Housing Assistance Center which helps Midland County residents secure housing. Ouderkirk says workers from Home to Stay visit Shelterhouse once a week to work with Shelterhouse clients.  

One of the new features of the new Shelterhouse facility is a room that is able to be super-heated to kill off bed bugs.

The new facility is a big change from the 7,000-square-foot converted residential home that Shelterhouse was previously using on M-20.​​​​​​​

“Bed bugs are a problem across the nation,” Ouderkirk says. “People bring their belongings from home and currently, we have a little heat box that we put their stuff into which takes a long time. Three Rivers helped build a room that can be super-heated so we can put all of the client’s belongings in at one time.”

Another new feature is an intake room. When a client comes requesting help, they will need to speak to an intake worker and tell their story. Ouderkirk says that many times those people will have children with them. At the old facility, there was nowhere else for the children to be other than in the room with them.

“In our new intake room, there’s a glass window to a play area for the children. So now mom can see the kids while telling her story to the worker, and the kids don’t have to hear it,” Ouderkirk says. “We are fortunate to now have those kinds of features that are built into this facility that will change how we operate for the better.”

Right next to the play area is the new advocacy resource room. The room is equipped with computers, printers and other resources that clients might need for putting a resume together, job searches, or other tasks that requires a computer.

“While they’re getting their resume done, the kids can be right there playing, and they can get what they need done,” Ouderkirk says.

“When in crisis, people also have to take their pet, or service animal, with them,” Shannon Tait, Manager of Commercial Projects for TRC.

Ouderkirk says that they wanted to make sure that the community was involved throughout the process, so they held a lot of focus groups involving the county, the city and many community members.

“It’s really important to me that every single person in our community has a chance to point at this building and say, ‘I helped’,” Ouderkirk says. “This facility is owned by the community. It is made up of neighbors coming together to help others in our community.”

Tait says that on the construction side, everyone has been dedicated and working hard to make sure that this is a premier facility for residents.

“The support that we’ve seen from the contractor community has been unprecedented,” Tait says. “It has been amazing to see this project through completion for something that fills such an important need in the community.”

To donate to Shelterhouse or the facility’s capital campaign, or to find out about volunteer opportunities, visit shelterhousemidland.org.

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