LOGAN — A new emergency shelter for those seeking to escape domestic violence in northern Utah opened Thursday at least one month ahead of schedule. And officials at the organization that will run the facility say it was “a miracle” that the complex opened now.
That’s because COVID-19 concerns have reduced beds available at Citizens Against Physical & Sexual Abuse’s main domestic violence shelter during a time representatives say they have received an uptick of domestic violence calls.
”The timing of this couldn’t be any better,” said James Boyd, development and marketing director for CAPSA, about the shelter opening. “The construction workers were staying late into the night to finish it but at the same time this was just a miracle.”
The Dell Loy Hansen Family Foundation purchased the four-unit multiplex in Logan back in January for CAPSA to run as long-term housing for domestic violence victims. CAPSA serves domestic violence, sexual assault and rape victims in Cache and Rich counties.
The multiplex was expected to open later in the spring because the building was in need of repair. However, the grand opening of the shelter was moved up to Thursday to provide help for victims now amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The RSL Foundation donated $60,000 for repairs to the facility and another foundation helped with bedding and other supplies to ensure the apartments could open as soon as possible.
”This space will save lives,” said Mary VanMinde, director of the RSL Foundation, in a prepared statement.
Instead of the original plan to use it as long-term housing, CAPSA plans to use it as an emergency shelter for the time being. That will help the organization increase bed capacity for victims at a time it has had to reduce its bed count to help victims practice social distancing. The organization shrunk the number of beds available at its main emergency shelter from 32 to 16 over the past couple of weeks for this reason.
At the same time it has reduced beds, it has received more calls for help. It’s been a theme appearing in Utah and across the country as people have been told to remain at home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Salt Lake City police reported a 33% spike in domestic violence reports over the past two weeks. Utah Domestic Violence Coalition officials said Thursday they have received at least a 50% increase in calls. Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told TIME last week that they also were experiencing a surge of calls.
”We have definitely seen an increase of calls as well as an increase of severity,” Boyd said. “Oftentimes abuse happens over time, but when there are those additional stressors, we’re seeing an increase in people lashing out, but also people who live in fear to think ‘I might be trapped and have no resources.’”
The new apartments are expected to at least get CAPSA back up to 32 beds, he added. The nonprofit also works with other partners to secure housing if those spaces fill up.
Those in Cache and Rich counties who need immediate help because of domestic violence should call 911; otherwise, Boyd encourages those in need to call CAPSA at 435-753-2500. People seeking help in those counties or elsewhere in the state can also call the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition hotline at 1-800-897-5465.