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Expanding a safe haven for women and children

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Good news this week from service grant recipient Women Against Abuse.

Women Against Abuse is set to complete a $3 million renovation and expansion project for its transitional housing program, Sojourner House, preserving this key community resource and increasing housing capacity for women and children who have fled life-threatening violence in the home.

Sojourner House — the region’s first transitional housing program dedicated to the needs of survivors of domestic violence and their children — was at risk of shutting down due to age-related structural damage. The project, which will finish in August, includes dramatic repair of building interiors and exteriors to preserve the facility, as well as the construction of a new apartment building for residents. Women Against Abuse anticipates that Sojourner House’s fifteen apartment units will be fully occupied by late summer.

With the renovation and expansion project complete, Women Against Abuse will be able to serve 85 women and children each year. Sojourner House, which provides residents up to 18 months of safe housing, promotes healing from trauma and empowers women with the resources they need to secure safe, affordable housing upon program completion.

The Collaborative worked with Women Against Abuse (WAA) in 2010, when the $3 million project "felt like a dream."  There was a little extra space on the Sojourner House property, and WAA wanted to find out whether it could build more housing as part of the renovation project.

The Collaborative's conceptual design and site plan showed that it was possible to add several more units of transitional housing. Jeannine Lisitski, Executive Director, writes, "It was the Collaborative's work that led us to believe that we could put an additional building on the footprint, which is how the new building was born!"

Sheila Armstrong, who lived at Sojourner House with her son in 2005, spoke of the project’s impact during a ribbon cutting at the site on July 29th. “Sojourner House meant everything to me and my son. It offered us safety and the chance to start again,” Armstrong said. “This renovation project is so important because it ensures Sojourner House will continue to be a safe haven for women and children who had to leave their homes to escape from violence.”.

“This project comes at such a critical time to meet the growing need for safe and affordable housing for survivors of domestic violence in Philadelphia,” said Executive Director Jeannine Lisitski. “We are so grateful that we were able to not only preserve Sojourner House but to actually increase capacity. Now, more women and children who have lived through truly horrific experiences will be welcomed to new, comfortable apartments by caring, dedicated staff where they can begin to heal and rebuild their lives.”

Waitlists in Philadelphia for transitional housing programs can stretch for years. The women who arrive at Sojourner House earn well below federal poverty levels; unable to afford safe housing, they are often forced to return to an abuser, risking harm and injury. Last year in Philadelphia, there were at least 2,000 emergency room visits related to intimate partner violence; more than 140,000 calls to the police for domestic violence; and 24 domestic violence homicides.

The renovation and expansion of Sojourner House was made possible through the support of: The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (sponsored by State Senators LeAnna M. Washington and Vincent J. Hughes), FHLBank Pittsburgh (sponsored by Citizen’s Bank), Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (sponsored by M&T Bank), Connelly Foundation, Nonprofit Finance Fund, AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership, Regional Housing Legal Services, Barbara Mary Wei-Gump Foundation, Valentine Foundation, Community Design Collaborative and the Energy Coordinating Agency.

Many thanks to the Women Against Abuse Volunteer Team

Moto DesignShop Inc.

Adam Montalbano, AIA Roman Torres

Marisa Schaffer

Nason Construction, Inc.

Robin Tama



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