First renters moving into transitional housing for domestic violence survivors

photo by: Contributed photo

One of the five bedrooms at Restoration House, the first transitional housing being offered by The Willow Domestic Violence Center. It was made possible through a partnership between The Willow, Tenants to Homeowners - Lawrence Community Housing Trust and KU Endowment. Clients, who will pay $100 a month rent, are currently moving into the house.

Several survivors of domestic violence are moving into Restoration House, the first transitional housing for The Willow Domestic Violence Center.

What began as a casual discussion five months ago, quickly morphed into a partnership with the nonprofit Lawrence Community Housing Trust and KU Endowment, which had property willing to rent, into transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking for one to two year leases, according to Megan Stuke, Willows executive director.

The five-bedroom two-story, fully-furnished house, will become home for up to four survivors. There is room for a survivor to bring two small children. Rent will be a $100 a month with survivors eligible to stay up to two years.

Currently, Willow’s crisis shelter only provides 30 to 60 days care.

“We have found that’s not enough time. People have to rebuild an entire life, find work, find a place to live they can afford and have money and stability,” said Stuke. “It’s not enough time, that’s why we have repeat customers or they end up back with their abuser.”

Restoration House will give clients more time to recover and create pathways, such as finding work, childcare and build savings. There will be a full-time site case manager Monday through Friday, plus access to Willow’s 24-hour hotline services and support. There will be house rules including no guests in the house and an extensive security system to help protect the residents.

The goal, according to Stuke, is for the case manager to work closely with the tenants and help set goals.

“They will determine what will help the survivors meet their goals,” Stuke said. “Do they need ongoing substance abuse counseling? Or, ongoing therapy or ongoing peer mentoring?”

Living in Restoration House should allow survivors time to build up credit and rental history.

“To my knowledge, we are the only domestic violence specific transitional housing in the region,” said Stuke.

However, Restoration House is just the first phase of a two-phase plan. By August there will be six other single-family homes in varying sizes, with extremely affordable rent. Tenants to Homeowners will be serving as landlords.

“It’s an important distinction, where the shelter is very much for crisis situations and there to offer support it’s about getting people what they need for the moment,” said Will Averill, director of communications. Restoration House will be more goal-oriented working with a case manager.

Stuke said everything fell into place after talking with Rebecca Buford, executive director of Lawrence Community Housing Trust, and they learned KU Endowment had a property it was willing to rent.

Then Stuke applied and received funding through the Lawrence’s Housing Trust Fund to pay the case managers salary for the year.

Five months later, Restoration House has become a reality.

How it has all fallen into place feels, “magical,” said Stuke.

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