Stepping Forward at the Jeffris Flats
For nearly 30 years, Jeffris Flats has served as a transitional housing facility for low-income women and their families as they recover from domestic violence. The building itself has seen more than a century of use since it was constructed in 1894. However, by the mid-2000s the building was beginning to fall into disrepair. Luckily, the YWCA of Rock County was diligent about the building's upkeep, years of weathering caused an accumlation of significant maintenance concerns, all of which needed tending to simultaneously: the windows on the first floors would not lock properly due to structural warping; the stairs and their railings were falling apart and rotting away; and the heater was nearing the end of its life. Unfortunately though, financing was tighter than ever.
When residents began reporting that they would not allow their children to walk down the front steps due to fear of their collapse, the YWCA knew it was time to take action. In 2013, the YWCA introduced the “Fix the Flats” initiative, in hopes of raising $250,000 to restore the 100 year old building to its former glory. At the same time, YWCA staff applied for, and were awarded, a WHEDA Foundation grant. The shelter was awarded the funds to cover the complete cost of their accessibility renovations.
Residents of the Jeffris Flats are allowed to stay in the shelter for up to 18 months while they look for alternative housing options, social support, and employment opportunities. For many of these families, receiving even temporary relief is a great gift, and oftentimes it is enough to get them back on their feet for good. In 2012 alone, the facility offered relief for many families, totaling more than 40 children.
This WHEDA Foundation grant not only helped provide Jeffris Flats residents with sound peace of mind, but also facilitated further advancement of the shelter. By taking the worries about a portion of the repairs to the old building off of the shoulders of YWCA staff, they were able to focus their attention to what truly mattered; efforts to create new programming, caterd more closely to residents’ specific needs, and work to offer additional housing units that would allow for more struggling families to utilize the shelter.
Thanks to WHEDA Foundation grants, which have funded additional projects like the Twin Oaks Shelter and the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association (ECAHMAA), Inc., transitional housing communities like the Jeffris Flats are able to offer a place where residents can stop and breathe while they figure out how to take the next step forward into the future.