Betty Dillard firstname.lastname@example.org
The Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County announced June 18 it is making more room for women and families seeking safety and shelter. In honor of its 125th anniversary, the nonprofit organization plans to break ground in September on an $8.2 million, 39,707-square-foot facility to provide a safe refuge for single women, moms with children, dads with children, and intact families. Additionally, for the first time, housing for a dozen homeless women also will be provided by the agency. The new Women and Families Service Building has been named as a memorial for community volunteer and commercial real estate developer, Scott Walker. The four-story building, expected to open in the fall of 2014, will be located on the organization’s 6.5-acre campus on East Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth’s near east side. The new facility will increase capacity by 260 percent, and will replace the existing 15,000-square-foot women’s center, a cramped, outdated building constructed in the 1940s. Last year, Union Gospel Mission provided more than 108,000 nights of shelter and more than 253,000 meals to those in need. About 80 percent of the county’s homeless population transitions through the mission, according to agency officials. Don Shisler, president and chief executive officer of Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, said the demand for homeless services, and specifically the needs of women and families, has increased dramatically the last few years. The agency receives more than 200 calls a month from women needing help. Shisler said domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women in this area, with 41 percent of the county’s homeless being female. “The women urgently need help and hope. This building will fulfill a precious need,” Shisler said. “It’s all about taking care of the need that’s already here.” The Scott Walker Women and Families Service Building also will include the Suzie Murray Chapel, named for her volunteerism at the organization. The new chapel will expand the services of the agency’s existing chapel, which in 2012 served 130,000 people, according to Chaplain Stanley Maneikis. In addition to the chapel, the new facility will include 28 rooms for single women (double occupancy); 12-bed overnight shelter for women; five rooms for men with children; and five rooms for families with children. “We won’t have to separate families anymore,” Shisler said. “We’ll be able to minister them together as we’re supposed to do.” Other amenities in the new building will include 13 offices for program directors/partnered community organizations; two program rooms; a library/computer room; pantry; prayer room; hair salon; and courtyard for residents. Architect for the project is Schwarz-Hanson Architects of Fort Worth. Muckleroy & Falls, also based in Fort Worth, will provide construction services. A capital campaign for the new women and families’ building began in August 2011. To date, $5.9 million has been raised. The Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Okla., has offered the nonprofit a $1 million challenge grant when the campaign hits the $7.2 million mark. Union Gospel Mission is asking for the community’s support to reach its final campaign goal within the next four months. “No gift is too small,” Shisler said. Shisler said that once the Scott Walker Women and Families Service Building is complete, Union Gospel Mission will start on its next expansion phase – three apartment settings that will house up to 100 persons. The residential project will include both retail space and office space. Shisler hopes the new women and families building, as well as the proposed mixed-use development project, will provide a catalyst for additional new construction and renovation in the Near East Side Village neighborhood. “We want to be the first part of implementing a neighborhood village,” he said. “We’re trying to raise the bar here all the time and I think this project will achieve this. We want to be a good steward to this community.” For information, visit www.ugm-tc.org or call 817-339-2553.