August 14, 2019

The Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys' Middle Keys shelter has been demolished to make way for a new facility.

Contributed The Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys' Middle Keys shelter has been demolished to make way for a new facility.

MARATHON — Demolition of the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys began last week as the first phase in rebuilding the emergency housing facility.

The razing of the 25-bed shelter was prompted by widespread damage from Hurricane Irma in September 2017 that left the Middle Keys building dormant. Since the destruction of the main shelter, the domestic violence victim support organization is left with 15 beds in the Lower Keys.

As a consequence, the Domestic Abuse Shelter had 39 unmet requests for shelter last year but still managed to provide 3,520 shelter nights to 122 people.

“We are about to review proposals from architects and once we’ve selected one, the next step will be to have contractors bid on the construction based on final drawings,” said Jennifer Powell, a Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys board member.

The Domestic Abuse Shelter is the only certified emergency shelter in Monroe County that provides refuge for victims of domestic violence and their children.

It offers services and resources for free to the community and receives three-fourths of its funding through grants. In addition to providing abuse victims with shelter, it offers phone or in-person counseling, court system advocacy, case management, referrals, transportation, children services, community outreach and crisis intervention, and help through a 24-hour hotline.

“I expect we’ll need to raise an additional between $1.5 million to $2 million to add to what we already have,” Powell said.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline received in June 573,670 contacts from people in the United States affected by domestic violence, an increase of 36% from 2017.

“The [NDV] report shows that together, The Hotline and loveisrespect, its relationship abuse prevention project, received four times the increase in media coverage in 2018 as compared to 2017,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “With greater awareness of this issue that affects one in four women and one in seven men, we’re seeing more people affected by abuse taking brave steps forward and seeking support. It’s important we continue to shine a light on domestic violence. We all play a role in ending it.”

Highlights from The NDV 2018 Impact Report show that advocates last year provided 156,157 referrals to shelter and domestic violence service providers and 213,926 referrals to additional resources across the nation.

The top resource referral type on the national level in 2018 fell under the category of legal resources. If and when a victim decides to leave their abusive partner, they want to know what their rights and protections are. and the Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women are two of the top resources provided, according to the report.

Also, 22% reported in 2018 that their abusive situation involved children, 13,625 victims experienced stalking and 7,482 cited suicidal threats from their abusive partners

In Monroe County, with a population of just less than 75,000, the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys last year answered 289 crisis calls on its 24-hour hotline and 667 direct service requests or referrals.

The shelter has received its highest funding — $25,000 — from the Fish for Holly memorial tournament held in January.

The annual tourney honors Holly Given, a 26-year-old Upper Keys woman who died tragically in Palm Beach County as a result of domestic violence nearly two years ago. Given’s family and friends aim to raise awareness of how difficult it can be to end an abusive relationship.

“Holly was in a situation that no one knew about, even though she was close to her family and a lot of her friends,” mother Lucy Given said. “Maybe if she had a neutral place to go, she could’ve gotten the help she needed.”

The Given family encourages others to be aware of the warning signs of domestic abuse, which, other than physical harm, include jealously, possessivenes, stalking, efforts to control or isolate, and threats that the abuser will harm himself.

The Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys is raising money to not only rebuild the Middle Keys shelter but to pay expenses not covered by grants or to match grant dollars as required, according to Powell.

Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department will hold a boot drive for the shelter from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, in Key Largo.