Joey’s hosting shelter home fundraiser

HOUGHTON – In Houghton and Keweenaw counties, the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home is the only shelter available for women seeking refuge from an abusive relationship. So when members of the Women’s Leadership Council at Michigan Technological University heard the shelter had lost some of its state funding, they decided to see what they could do to help bridge the gap.

They teamed up with Tech’s Pan-Hellenic Council of sororities as a cosponsor, recruited Joey’s Seafood & Grill to host, and set about spreading the word. On April 22, as long as a customer mentions the fundraiser, 20 percent of their check at Joey’s will go to the shelter home.

“We know they’re going to help people that need it,” Autumn Channey, publicity chair of the Women’s Leadership Council, said of the shelter. “The coalition wants to help more women, but we don’t always get the chance. This gives us a chance to make an impact.”

The people at Joey’s, she added, were “very excited to help us out with this.”

Shelter Home Executive Director Mary Niemela said the shelter lost nearly $40,000 in annual state funding this year when a rural grant program was eliminated and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority changed how they allocated some funds. She said that makes private help even more important than usual.

“We’re very appreciative of any type of fundraiser, big, small or in between,” she said.

Niemela said there isn’t any danger the shelter home will have to curtail its 24/7 services or end any programs, but there is a chance staff hours could be reduced.

For the last fiscal year ending in September, she said, the shelter provided 1,530 nights of emergency shelter for women and their children escaping abusive homes, with each child counted individually – an average of 4.2 people staying in the shelter each night.

“Over the past few years, there’s been only a night or two without somebody here,” she said.

The shelter home also offers a 24-hour crisis line, in-person victim counseling, legal advocacy, help with transportation and finding permanent housing, and community awareness programs. Physical shelter at the home is for women and children only, but abused men can also access any of the other programs, Niemela said, and shelter home workers will help them find a safe place to stay elsewhere.

She noted that women, however, are still the vast majority of clients.

“Ninety-five percent of abuse is against women in the U.S.,” she said.

Where abuse occurs across the socioeconomic and educational spectrums is less predictable however, and Channey said she’s well aware the Leadership Coalition could be helping support a safety net for some of their own.

“There are no academic or socioeconomic boundaries,” Niemela agreed. “Batterers don’t wear name tags.”