Park City’s Peace House, a nonprofit serving domestic violence survivors in Summit and Wasatch counties, is coming out of the shadows and into the light with the opening of a new Community Campus this fall.
Historically, the Peace House was split between two locations: a community outreach office near downtown Park City and a 2,000-square-foot emergency shelter in an undisclosed location. Now, those services will be combined in a secure building 20 times the size on Round Valley Drive.
Sally Tauber, director of development and marketing at the Peace House, said the community campus will make Peace House more accessible to clients. Often, the first question people seeking services ask is where the shelter is located, said Tauber. When they are told that the information is confidential they might feel discouraged from asking for further help.
“Now we can say … you can come visit us at our building and we can tell you about our services,” she said. “So the whole idea is really being welcoming and encouraging people to come in.”
The project has been in the works for about six years and ground was broken in September 2017, according to Executive Director Kendra Wyckoff. The organization originally believed the 42,000-square-foot building would cost $11.6 million, but the price tag ended up closer to $12 million because of weather and soil challenges and increased security measures. About half of the money came from private donations and the rest from public partnerships and grants, including $900,000 from the Utah Legislature.
Emergency shelter services will move to the new location by Sept. 1 and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony will be Sept. 21.
The expanded shelter and services are sorely needed in the Beehive State. High domestic violence rates continue to be a major issue across Utah, where 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence compared to 1 in 4 women across the country. Nationally, domestic violence related deaths account for 30 percent of all homicides, but they account for 44 percent in Utah.
Last year, the Peace House had 260 unmet requests for shelter, said Wyckoff. The organization works with its partners in the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition to find safe shelter for clients when shelter capacity is filled.
The old shelter, which was built in 1995, had room for five families, but the new shelter has eight units. Beyond emergency shelter, which is intended for people immediately fleeing a dangerous situation, the new building also has 12 long-term transitional housing units for families to stay in for up to two years while they rebuild their lives.
Each family unit comes with furniture, household items and a private bathroom. Transitional housing units include a kitchen, while families in emergency housing will share two community kitchens.
Jenn Oxborrow, executive director of the coalition, said transitional housing is critical for helping survivors regain their independence. In addition to high domestic violence rates, Utah has high birthrates and the country’s biggest gender wage gap. This means that Utah women on average have many dependents and less financial stability, which can impede their ability to leave an abusive partner. Oxborrow said long-term housing also carries less stigma than an emergency shelter.
The Utah coalition includes 13 shelter-based nonprofit member programs that have met the coalition’s standards of care. Although the organizations are shelter-based, they also provide legal and financial services to survivors not seeking emergency shelter. Oxborrow said 13 organizations is fewer than are found in other states’ domestic violence coalitions. She hopes that domestic violence funding will be expanded so that each of Utah’s 29 counties can ultimately have its own program.
"I’ve lived and worked in five different states and I would say, comparatively, Utah has a very serious gap in services,” she said.
But Oxborrow said that although more statewide funding is needed, victims of domestic violence will still receive help from the coalition. She emphasized that no one should worry that they can’t come forward because their needs will not be met.
State Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said intimate partner violence is a bipartisan concern and that state legislators are becoming more responsive to the issue as they learn more about it. Romero previously sponsored legislation to recognize that intimate partner violence affects a wide range of people, including those in same-sex relationships. She said she hopes to secure $1 million in the next legislative session to pay for intimate partner violence programs.
For now, the Peace House is working to make its new space as comfortable and supportive as possible. Clinical therapists and legal assistants are already available at the community campus to meet with community members. Four designated “pods,” each with two offices and two comfortably furnished therapy rooms, will provide a safe, private space for clients and advocates to talk.
A child care center, meditation room and fenced-off outdoor recreation space are also included in the new campus.
Behind the building, a dog recreation area is in the works. Wychoff explained that concern for pets can be a barrier to victims of violence leaving their abusers.
“We’re really looking at policies to support safety for everyone in the family, including the furry people,” she said.
In addition to supporting survivors, the Peace House also works to educate the Summit and Wasatch county communities. Wychoff said she hopes the more public location will bring the issue of domestic violence to light and start conversations about violence prevention and healthy relationships.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 immediately. For more information and resources, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s 24-hour hotline can be reached at 1-800-897-5465. The hotline is free and confidential.