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Supporting the Shelter: Northwoods Battered Women’s Shelter begins search for new home

BEMIDJI--Four decades after first opening its doors to help those in need, the Northwoods Battered Women's Shelter is looking for a new home. They're getting a little help toward that end from another group that's just getting started. The Bemidj...

Andrea Kingbird, executive director of the Northwoods Battered Women’s Shelter, speaks at the quarterly meeting of Women United on Thursday morning at BSU. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
Andrea Kingbird, executive director of the Northwoods Battered Women’s Shelter, speaks at the quarterly meeting of Women United on Thursday morning at BSU. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI-Four decades after first opening its doors to help those in need, the Northwoods Battered Women's Shelter is looking for a new home.

They're getting a little help toward that end from another group that's just getting started. The Bemidji branch of Women United held its first quarterly meeting Thursday in BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom. Although Women United has hosted events in recent years to honor local women, the group now has organized itself into a more established organization with the goal of addressing community issues. As part of that goal, it designated fundraising for the Battered Women's Shelter as one of its first projects.

"We started brainstorming about what would bring a group of women together that would be impactful to the community," said Denae Alamano, executive director of the United Way of the Bemidji Area.

There's a simple reason for the women's shelter project: They need more space. The shelter has limited room to house those in need, and that often results in turning people away.

"This project has been necessary for a really long time," said Andrea Kingbird, executive director of the Northwoods Battered Women's Shelter, as she spoke to a room full of women. "Each year, we are unable to accommodate requests for shelter at a rate almost equal to the number of individuals we serve."

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The shelter's leadership sees the project moving forward in several stages. With the first phase, they hope to raise $30,000 and develop a design concept for the new space, as well as develop a budget for the overall project. They hope to complete the first phase by the end of the year.

In the second phase, they intend to begin a capital campaign to raise the needed resources. That likely will take the organization through the end of 2021.

"And then we can start the really exciting part of building our new project," said Rebecca Stone, one of the shelter's board members who also spoke on Thursday. "Our dream is to be in our new facility and complete phase three of our project by the end of 2022."

Typically, battered women's shelters do not publicize their addresses in order to protect the safety of their residents.

Last year, the shelter served nearly 800 people, 284 of whom either stayed in the shelter or at safe housing. In spite of those it helped, the shelter also had to deny at least 600 requests due to lack of space.

In addition to housing, the shelter provides other needs, such as emergency financial assistance, transportation and food. It also helps women navigate the court system.

Although nobody knows what the final project will look like since it's still in the beginning stages, Kingbird said it's rewarding just to have the project underway.

"To have people wanting to know about our program and what we do is so exciting," Kingbird said following the meeting. "To have support like this-I can't even describe the feeling of it."

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