When Kim Middleton needs to find somewhere safe for her rural Idaho clients, she often starts hundreds of miles away.
“When people are high-risk, they go to Payette,” said Middleton, the executive director of the Elmore County Domestic Violence Council.
Part of Middleton’s job is relocating abuse victims who are in harm’s way. But with no existing shelters in the county just east of Ada County, finding somewhere to house them has long been a challenge. Shelters in nearby cities like Boise and Twin Falls are frequently full.
In 2019, Elmore County’s first safe house will open and, Middleton predicts, ease some of the strain on Idaho’s existing domestic violence resources.
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The Domestic Violence Council expects the safe house will be complete by October 2019. Administrative services will open at the site, located in a former restaurant at 2375 Airbase Road in Mountain Home, by early spring, officials said.
Middleton said there’s been some concern over having the safe house “in a place people know where it is.” She said social media and technology have made it hard to keep such locations secret, so the council decided not to try to keep it secret but to focus instead on ensuring the safe house is secure.
The safe house will include six bedrooms “for women and children who are fleeing domestic violence situations,” a council news release said. It will include on-site laundry, a kitchen and dining area, counseling space and a playroom for children. According to Middleton, the safe house will likely be a 30-day program for residents. It will serve all of Elmore County.
It iisn’t immediately clear how much the project will cost. The council recently raised $16,000 through a fundraiser, and Middleton said the council is working with a private foundation to secure additional funding.
‘A long time coming’
Middleton has long worried about resources in Elmore County.
She moved to Mountain Home six years ago. After working 10 years with victims in Canyon County, where a safe house/safe houses offered shelter and government and nonprofit agencies offered support, she was shocked to find so little help for domestic-violence victims in Elmore County. Apart from a crisis hotline staffed by volunteers, “there were just no services,” she said.
Services have accumulated slowly, and Middleton said the safe house is a “crucial” piece of that.
At times, she said, she has moved victims as far as Oregon, Utah and Washington. Occasionally Canyon County can offer a bed or two. The nearest large cities are just too overburdened with their own cases.
“Twin Falls is always full, Boise is always full,” Middleton said. “In six years [in Elmore County], never once have I gotten someone into Women’s and Children’s Alliance. They’re always full.”
WCA spokeswoman Chris Davis said there are just two secure domestic violence shelters in the Treasure Valley: one run by the WCA, a Boise organization that aids victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, and Hope’s Door Shelter in Caldwell. According to the WCA website, it sheltered 152 women and children in 2016.
Davis said the WCA is looking forward to adding a resource to its network of local partners and emphasized that local options for support can encourage victims to seek help.
“We have clients that come to us from all over,” Davis said. “Resources are a big thing, and making that decision to leave an abusive relationship is very difficult. Having a barrier [like location] in place makes it even more difficult.”
Though there will likely continue to be a shortage of beds for Idaho victims, Middleton said the addition of a resource in Mountain Home can benefit the whole state as safe houses move victims to distance them from their abusers.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation
Call the 24-hour Idaho Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-669-3176 or
- In Elmore County, contact the Domestic Violence Council at 208-587-3300
- In Ada County, contact the WCA at 208-343-7025