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The YWCA Emergency Shelter is the largest shelter for women and children in the state of North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota and provides 45-day emergency shelter for women and children experiencing homelessness and/or domestic violence. The shelter is a safe, locked facility with a capacity of 65 that is staffed by trained professionals 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. There are 27 sleeping rooms, all of which are handicap accessible, as well as a family room on the first floor for families with boys over the age of 15. Along with housing, the shelter provides emergency food, personal items, transportation assistance, information and referral services, emotional support, onsite licensed childcare, and education & employment programming.
YWCA shelter staff take a holistic approach when helping women identify their needs. With each client they review nine areas which include personal safety, housing, employment, education, physical and mental health, needs of the children, spiritual, legal and financial concerns. Each resident then sets goals and with the assistance of their case manager and other support staff (Shelter Faith Community Nurse, Parent Education Specialist and Education & Employment Coordinator), develops an action plan to reach those goals.
These vulnerable clients need more than just a roof over their heads; they need support and guidance to navigate their turbulent situations. The YWCA's comprehensive case management and additional program and supportive services offered at the shelter differentiate the Emergency Shelter from others in the region. When women and children enter the shelter, they are provided with food, clothing, childcare, and extensive case management services as they work on the ultimate goal of obtaining alternative housing and independence.
Ramona’s Story (Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.)
The staff at the YWCA was very accepting, compassionate, understanding, and ready to help me in any way they could. They never made me feel like I couldn’t accomplish anything and everything that I set out to do!
The things that are offered at the YWCA like meeting with my case manager once a week, and attending three classes a week (with topics like parenting, domestic violence support groups, and yoga to name a few) were very crucial and needed for me to become more aware of my situation. To become educated about my situation only helped me to become self sufficient. I am extremely grateful to the YWCA and their staff for allowing me to learn and grow in to the person I am today, a much stronger person than I was four months ago. I will never forget the YWCA for all of their support that they have given me and my family. Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart.
Ramona, Shelter Resident
P.S. Don't change a thing. Continue to help all of those in need the way that you do.
Shelter Faith Community Nurse
The Shelter Faith Community Nurse (SFCN), in collaboration with Sanford Health, works with the residents of the YWCA Shelter as well as those living in the Transitional Housing programs. The SFCN meets with women and children and empowers them to achieve optimal health and wellness. The nurse also promotes and enhances wellness in the lives of shelter residents and staff by addressing the needs of mind, body, and spirit in a holistic manner with a focus on appropriate usage of health care services, access to care, and advocacy.
Impact Stories (Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.)
Every person deserves time and attention to find ways to resolve their health concerns. Along with the health concern, the women come to the YWCA with much stress, mistrust, and anxiety. This in turn leads to other health issues such as difficulty sleeping at night or lack of sleep, low self-esteem, lack of self care, and often poor nutrition. All of this can deter women in accomplishing certain goals like filling out housing forms, applying and interviewing for employment, seeking resources that would help her when she leaves the shelter, or finding a healthy support system. The SFCN empowers women to find their own health care resources, obtain medications if needed, refer them to dental and/or eye care, and give them the encouragement and support that they can do this on their own.
On the routine health assessment with Ruby, the SFCN discovered an elevated blood pressure and referred her to Homeless Health Clinic (HHC). Ruby further shared that she had lost her job and could not pay the rent. She talked about the stress in her life, how tired she was, her recent weight gain, and how she did not want her adult children to know where she was. She thought if she just got a job and a place of her own, life would be better. The SFCN convinced her to have an evaluation at the HHC. It was discovered that she not only had hypertension but she also had adult-onset diabetes. Ruby got on the appropriate medication, learned about good nutrition, and started feeling better, sleeping better, and was able to be self-sufficient.
Krystal panicked because both her children had fevers, were vomiting, and had diarrhea. It came on suddenly, and it frightened this young mother. She did not know where to turn or what to do. After assessing the children, the SFCN reassured Krystal that her children had the 24 hour flu and mainly needed rest, sleep, clear liquids, and a good movie. The next day, Krystal reported that the children were much better, eating more food, and wanting to play again.
Pearl felt like the whole world sat on her shoulders. She could not sleep at night and yet wanted to sleep all day. She cried easily telling her story and felt worthless. She had a sad and anxious feeling inside. The SFCN referred her to a human service counselor to assess her for depression and anxiety. Pearl felt relieved that her feelings were validated. In the following weeks, she was sleeping better and was able to focus on what needed to be accomplished.
These stories give a snapshot of the health concerns faced by the residents. The SFCN works to give each resident the resources and tools to manage their own health care especially after they leave the shelter. Mental health illness and concerns are increasing in numbers and poses a great challenge to the shelter staff. Resources and services are limited for the homeless. Funding, available mental health providers, lack of information or knowledge about mental health, and transportation to therapy or support groups are some of the barriers in obtaining appropriate mental health care. In collaboration with Sanford Health’s Faith Community Nursing and Healing Ministry, the SFCN and the YWCA staff are working towards resolving these issues and paving an easier route for mental health care.
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