Marta Miranda had a difficult year as the executive director of the Center for Women and Families in Louisville.
More than a year ago, the roof of the center’s busiest, largest shelter began to leak. Brown water seeped out of the ceilings; residents told the center’s staff they were getting sick from mold.
The staff and residents at the Old Louisville campus were forced to evacuate. The people that had come to center seeking refuge from abusive relationships had to be transplanted to other locations already pressed for room.
Miranda said the center coughed up $40,000 a month in rental fees to house everyone displaced by the damaged roof.
But now, after a $6-million renovation funded through loans and donations, the Center for Women and Families is opening back up their Old Louisville campus on Second Street.
And Miranda said it’s better than ever.
“We used it as an opportunity to create more client communal spaces, to make it safer,” she said. “We have literally taken lemons and made lemonade.”
The center celebrated the reopening of its Old Louisville on Friday. Some services are being offered at the campus now, but the shelter won’t reopen for about another month.
The Center for Women and Families provides services to anyone who is a victim of intimate partner abuse or sexual violence—men and women, gay and straight, according to the center’s website.
About 7,000 people are served by the center’s five regional locations each year, Miranda said.
People come to the center seeking safety, she said. But it’s more than just a safe house.
“We do advocacy and counseling, we do medical advocacy, we have a sexual assault clinic, we do transitional housing and we have an emergency shelter and we can house up to 79 people in our shelter at a time,” Miranda said.
All the services are free, she said.
With the new space comes a new Kosair Charities Children and Youth Violence Prevention Project, which aims to positively engage young people affected by domestic violence or sexual assault, Miranda said.
Working with children exposed to violence or trauma is a big step in breaking the cycle of domestic violence, she said.
“Children exposed to trauma, children exposed to violence are 50 percent more likely to be a victim or a perpetrator,” Miranda said.
Already in 2015, Louisville police have responded to more than 2,400 reports of domestic violence, according to police data. And Miranda said surveys officers conduct at the scene of such calls shows that nearly 3,000 people are at risk of being killed by domestic abuse in Jefferson County.
“It’s an epidemic,” she said.
The most effective tool to end domestic violence is community support, said Sherry Currens, executive director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
She said no one should shy away from alerting authorities when they see domestic abuse in progress.
“It takes everyone,” she said.
And places such as the center are a hub for people that need to get away from violent situations, she said.
About 15 other emergency shelters for people escaping domestic violence across the state are modeled after campuses with the Center for Women and Families, she said.
Services for domestic violence have only been available to people for about 50 years, Currens said.
“It was a very hidden problem and people just suffered in their homes and they were isolated,” she said. “Now they have the ability to escape the violence which is a relatively new ability and is really wonderful, and the services that are provided here are very important.”
Miranda said the center is still working to pay back about $2 million in loans.