Your vote can help a groundbreaking MN domestic violence shelter

The group that opened America's first shelter for battered women is a finalist for a big cash prize.

43 years ago Minnesota became home to the nation's first shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence. Now the $64,000 question is: will enough supporters of the St. Paul shelter cast votes for it to win a big cash prize from a foundation?

Women's Advocates is a finalist for the money that the Opus Foundation will present to one of eight non-profit groups. But online voting for a winner only runs through 3 p.m. Friday.

Opus chose a worthy group in each of the eight markets around the country where the real estate development company has offices. You can see who they are and cast a vote here. The company has been around for 64 years, which is how they chose the size of their grant.

Shelter started with a crisis line

Women's Advocates traces its roots back to 1972, when a telephone crisis line was started for women seeking safety from domestic violence. A couple of years later organizers were able to buy a Victorian home on St. Paul's Grand Ave. and turn it into a shelter for victims/survivors. Since then they've purchased two neighboring homes and connected them.

The shelter usually serves about 50 women and children at a time and altogether it's helped more than 40,000 since it opened, Women's Advocates says. The group also works on education and prevention of domestic violence.

Right now they're in the middle of a three-year plan to add to their programming and develop scattered-site transitional housing.

One death per week in Minnesota

Women's Advocates, which is offering tours of its facility on April 18, provides some statistics about the problem of domestic violence in Minnesota.

  • An average of one person per week dies in Minnesota because of domestic violence
  • Among homeless women in the state, one-third can trace their situation to domestic violence
  • Only 17 percent of domestic assault victims report the crime to police

Women's Advocates still operates a crisis phone line, which is 651-227-8284. Find other resources and information here.

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Domestic violence killed 34 Minnesotans in 2011

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women reports four of the victims were children and six were people who tried to intervene to stop abuse. Those include Lake City police officer Shawn Schneider, who was killed while responding to a domestic violence call.