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Akeley Emergency Shelter awarded $50K grant

Akeley’s Emergency Shelter was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust in St. Paul to provide safe shelter and wraparound supportive services to survivors of domestic violence in Hubbard, Clearwater, and Cass Counties. It’s the biggest grant the shelter has received so far.

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Children at the shelter have a welcoming space to play and find comfort.
Contributed / Allison Forte
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Allison Forte is the shelter’s executive director. “We have now provided over 700 nights of safe shelter,” she said. “The grant will be used for general operational support for wages.”

Forte said other major donors to the emergency shelter include the Hewitt Family Charitable Fund, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation Women’s Fund and Walker American Legion Post 134.

In addition to Forte, advocates at the shelter provide assistance to residents. “We have 12 beds total,” she said. “The average stay is about 60 days. We also have a great room, children’s play area, kitchen, and laundry facilities.”

The shelter is licensed for 22 beds. “We’ll slowly continue to grow our capacity based on funding and staff,” she said.

Forte said the shelter is open to anyone experiencing intimate partner violence. Sometimes referrals will be made by an organization, but people can also call the shelter directly.

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“Anyone can stay here,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where they are from. They should call 218-652-2600 first to make sure we have space. If we don't, we're a resource to find a place with a safe space. We don’t have a waiting list, so it’s first come, first served. We tell people to call every day because things can change daily.”

Resources for residents

While staying at the emergency shelter, residents are provided with food and clothing. They can get clothing vouchers to use at the Akeley Regional Community Center (ARCC) thrift store. In addition, they have access to housing and mental health support referrals.

“Finding housing is difficult,” Forte said. “And finding jobs is difficult because most people don’t have a vehicle.”

The emergency shelter is a nonprofit, and donations, including donated cars, are tax deductible.

The first steps when someone comes to the shelter are getting settled into their room and doing an intake with a staff member.

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The great room provides a feeling of home for residents at the Akeley Emergency Shelter while they are working on goals for the next chapter in their lives.
Contributed / Allison Forte

“We also give them time to get acclimated and get some rest,” she said. “Then we work with them to create their goals. That might be to find housing. Advocates at the shelter support them and work with them to work to meet those goals. We might help them fill out housing applications, work with other programs like Family Safety Network, Housing Matters, MAHUBE-OTWA or Bi-Cap. Maybe they need help applying for benefits or making car repairs or need to get their ID and birth certificate so they can get a Social Security card, so they can apply for housing assistance. We try to help them break down some of those barriers to get what they need.

“We also try to help them work on healing from their trauma. There are mental health referrals if they want them. And we work with them on creating a safety plan.”

Staff also provide fun activities for children staying at the shelter. “We try to give them a little time to escape,” she said.

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Ways to help

“The ARCC as a whole is looking for an event planner,” Forte said. “We’re also looking for someone to plan and lead structured activities for children in the gym at the ARCC. We are one entity. We are looking for individuals interested in being a part of the ARCC fundraising committee.”

Back-to-school items needed most are gently used or new clothing in sizes from elementary to high school, tennis shoes and gift cards so residents can get clothing and shoes for their children.

“We can use laptops for staff and for the residents DVD players, wall-mountable working condition TVs, tablets, children’s toys, diapers in sizes 3-6, pullups, Kleenex, laundry soap and dryer sheets,” Forte said. “It would be great if a group had a new toy drive for Christmas and gifts for adults too like bathrobes, makeup, nail kits, hygiene projects, body sprays and slippers. Some of those ‘feel good’ things. It would be great if someone would have a gift card drive for places like Walmart, Amazon or Visa gift cards. We are very grateful for the support we have received from the region. This is truly the community’s program.”

Bring these donations to the Akeley Regional Community Center thrift store in boxes marked “Emergency Shelter.”

Donations of household items and clothing to the ARCC thrift store are welcome and help fund operating and other expenses for the building.

Checks made out to Akeley Emergency Shelter may be mailed to P.O. Box 218, Akeley MN, 56433.

A wish list for ongoing needs is available at www.arcc-emergencyshelter.com. Donations may also be made on the website.

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Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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