The YWCA in Billings is in the midst of a push to let more people know about its services for domestic abuse victims while highlighting a number of new related efforts.
Called the Reaching Every Woman outreach campaign and funded largely by the St. Vincent Healthcare Mission Fund, the effort aims to educate the public so that more people will remember the YWCA's resources when they need them, as well as volunteer or provide other support.
"It's our campaign to let community members know about the services we offer," said Erin Lambert, director of programs. "We want everyone to know that there is help available. One-third of the women in our region are victims of domestic or sexual violence and most of us know someone who is a victim, or have been one themselves."
Among its most recognizable services are an emergency shelter that provides a place to stay for abuse victims and their children for as long as 12 weeks, and 24-hour telephone and text lines that victims of abuse or sexual assault can contact for help.
It also provides trained advocates who meet with sexual violence victims in Billings Clinic's Emergency Department to help while a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) conducts a forensic examination.
But Lambert noted the YWCA has, in the last fiscal year, also added a number of new services in the last year and is working on more. In January, it brought on an in-house attorney to help victims with civil legal matters who has already seen about 40 people for consultations.
It also added case management services to help the people it serves secure housing, find employment and meet their children's needs.
"A lot of people still don't know we're here but there is help out there if someone is in an abusive relationship," Lambert said.
The YWCA is in the early stages of raising about $4.5 million for a planned 24-unit apartment building called Gateway Vista that would provide stable and affordable housing for the victims it helps.
"We would provide housing for up to two years," Lambert said. "Ideally we would have ladies that would transition from the shelter to Gateway Vista and have access to the services we offer. Housing is one of the biggest barriers for people who want to leave abusive situations, so we want to offer that specialized housing and services."
While no timeline has been set for construction and fundraising has only just begin, Lambert said they will open the apartments as soon as possible.
The Reaching Every Woman campaign will also feature advertising, outreach materials and posters scattered around town with tear-off strips with the YWCA contact info.
The ultimate goal, officials said, is to ensure that the victims of violence get the resources they need, when they need them. Lambert said that domestic violence is a community problem that affects everybody, while CEO Merry Lee Olson noted that the YWCA has been serving Billings for 109 years.
"Our tag line — YWCA is on a mission — perfectly describes our mission-driven work to assist people in need,” Olson said. “We are privileged to share the strength of our mission, our values and our work with the community.”