By Carol Vaughn —
The Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ESCADV) announced this week it has purchased the former G. F. Horne assisted living facility in Onancock.
ESCADV is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, child services, case management, legal advocacy, accompaniment during hospital visits and court cases, support groups, and individual counseling, among other services.
The five-acre property after renovations will house a campus to include a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, administrative and advocate offices, storage space for donated items, and space for education, support groups, and community outreach.
The property, purchased for $350,000 according to court records, includes three buildings.
A donation from philanthropist David Landsberger made the purchase possible, according to a press release.
“We can’t thank David Landsberger enough for his generosity,” said Shelley Strain, ESCADV executive director. “We’re starting a whole new chapter in ESCADV’s history, and it wouldn’t have been possible without him.”
Renovations to the shelter building will be done first. The space will allow clients to have private rooms with attached bathrooms, rather than the current communal-style shelter.
Plans include a shared kitchen, laundry room, and recreation room, as well as space for support groups, a vegetable garden, and a fenced yard with a playground for children staying in the facility.
“COVID made it clear that the coalition needed a new way to house clients. During the pandemic the current shelter, which is a duplex, could only house two families at a time. Over the last year and a half ESCADV has had to lean more heavily on hotel rooms to house survivors. In fiscal year 2021, ESCADV spent over $120,000 on lodging and relocation expenses for clients. As more people began to travel, it became difficult to even find enough hotel rooms for clients. The new shelter will be able to accommodate at least 25 clients, with room for expansion as needed,” according to the release.
The organization takes its clients’ safety seriously.
In the past, ESCADV worked to keep the location of its shelter confidential, but now that all its facilities will be in one location, the organization will rely on increased security and staff presence rather than the expectation of anonymity.
“Our clients trust us to keep them safe and we would never intentionally do anything to put them at risk,” Peaches Dodge, ESCADV board president, said in an emailed response to questions.
“Our renovation of the property is still in the very early phases, so nothing it set in stone as of yet. However, our initial thoughts are that the new shelter will have enhanced security measures to keep our clients safe. We also hope to have 24-hour staff for the shelter. Additionally, once our offices open on the campus, we’ll have the bulk of our staff on-site for much of the day.”
A second building after renovations will house administrative and advocacy offices, bringing ESCADV staff who now are spread across two buildings under one roof.
It also will include space to store donated items.
“The community is extremely generous with us, but our space is limited at the moment and it can make managing donations difficult,” said volunteer coordinator Jon Bulin.
“The new campus will give us more space to organize household goods, clothes, and personal care items so clients can easily grab what they need,” he said.
The building also will include a room where a sexual assault nurse examiner can perform physical evidence recovery kit tests for sexual assault survivors, giving survivors more privacy by keeping them from having to visit the hospital.
The third building does not yet have a specified use.
It may be used to host events, as classrooms, as space for additional support groups, or as overflow space for the shelter, according to the release.
“If we get to a point where we need to provide more beds for clients we can,” Dodge said.
“It’s partially fun not to know what we’ll do with that building yet and almost having it evolve and having community needs dictate what it will be. I think of it as a space we can grow into and mature into as an organization,” Dodge said.
ESCADV hopes to have the new shelter up and running by early 2022 and to move into the new office building a year from now.
What renovations are needed to the buildings is still being evaluated, so the costs are not yet known.
“We plan to approach the project one building at a time, so the costs will vary from building to building and will be broken up as we progress. We’re dealing with many moving targets, including the cost of materials and labor,” Dodge said.
ESCADV is working with subcontractors to get the best prices possible “and we’ve been very fortunate that they are willing to work with us on that in consideration of what we do as an organization,” she said.
The new facility will be more efficient and will require only minimal use of outside lodging, which this last year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, cost the organization over $90,000 and during the previous, partial COVID-19 year cost $53,000, according to Dodge.
Even before the pandemic, ESCADV had substantial outside lodging costs, averaging $35,000 a year.
With the larger facility, that figure should decrease to under $5,000.
Still, there will be some increases in operating costs.
Pre-pandemic, shelter and other building operating costs ran about $140,000 a year. The figure jumped to $219,000 in the past year during the pandemic.
“When we are totally switched over to the new facility, we estimate our costs to cover all the same activities for the same number of clients will be between $150,000 and $160,000. But for this modest increase we also will have double the capacity in shelter space, already paid for; and our third building will offer us several options, including rentable space. We should be able to cover any increases via the various funding sources we have, some of which recognize our needs per number of clients served,” Dodge said.
“We’ve been so fortunate to have the strong support from community members and our local governments and we will continue to count on them to help keep survivors safe on the Eastern Shore,” she said, adding, “Additionally, in July we hired Sarah Barban as our director of fund development and community relations. We feel that having a full-time staff member writing grants, networking with donors, and working to build awareness of ESCADV as an organization on the Shore will help generate additional funding.”
The first two buildings were built as a nursing home in 1986 and a third building was added in 1996. The facility later became an assisted living facility.
ESCADV plans to sell 155 Market Street and the current shelter to fund completion of the new campus, as well as seeking grant funding and funding from Accomack and Northampton counties and towns.
However, additional community support will be necessary for the project.
To donate to the capital campaign, businesses and individuals can mail checks to P.O. Box 3, Onancock, VA 23417 or drop them off at the ESCADV administrative office, 155 Market St., Onancock. To donate online visit http://weblink.donorperfect.com/capital-campaign