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OGDEN — Hidden behind vines and shrubbery at 2261 Adams Ave. is a brick building, colonial in style, equipped with a very modern security system. The mechanical beep of the doorbell and security code pad contrast with the brown and red brick but share a common goal.
The YCC Family Crisis Center in Ogden has served as a place of refuge and fortress for individuals or families experiencing domestic or sexual violence for 76 years. Many have entered its doors through those years, but due to increasing need and lack of transitional housing some are now being turned away.
"That's the hardest thing to do, to turn people away, especially when you know the circumstances of their situation. Maybe it's the first time they've ever actually reached out for help, and it could make it the last time because they're getting that courage to reach out and say, 'This is happening to me,' and if we're not able to help — maybe the one person or the one agency they've been told can help — if we can't fulfill that promise, it really could cause them to lose hope," said Ashley Daniels, a YCC victim advocate.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as people everywhere stayed home as much as they could, domestic violence shelters and hotlines witnessed an unprecedented increase in calls. Instances of domestic violence rose 8.1% nationwide as stay-at-home orders took effect, according to a 2021 analysis released by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.
The trend was reflected in Utah, with domestic violence hotlines receiving 21,321 calls — an average of almost 15 calls every minute — on a single day in 2020, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Shelters struggled to support the increased need for their services alongside the reality of COVID-19 protocols limiting capacity and increasing financial burden.
"We definitely saw an increase in crisis calls and increase in individuals seeking shelter, which was really difficult because, at the same time, we were also having to reduce the amount of individuals in our shelter and put stricter standards or restrictions on who was eligible," Daniels said.
The additional restrictions meant that those reaching out for help couldn't always be received. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that in 2020 there were 3,168 adult and child clients served in Utah domestic violence shelters, with 2,191 requests for shelter going unmet.
Not only were needs increasing but the severity of the cases increased as well.
"It was really disheartening to see that the majority of cases that were coming through, not only were they getting set from law enforcement and being categorized as high risk for homicide, but they were on the severe end of the spectrum," said Daniels.
From 2019 to 2020, aggravated family assault offenses in Salt Lake City rose from 157 to 220. Statewide domestic violence deaths from 2019 to 2020 rose from 31 to 46 — accounting for approximately 23% of homicides in 2020, according to a study by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
Those turned away faced limited options: Return to a potentially violent situation or seek shelter on the streets.
Among women with children experiencing homelessness, approximately 80% had previously experienced domestic violence, according to a study by The National Center for Children in Poverty. When faced with homelessness, victims often return to their abuser, an average of seven times before finally leaving for good.
Last year, YCC provided 7,736 shelter nights and received 5,602 crisis hotline phone calls.
Despite limitations on capacity being lifted, YCC still does not have the capacity to meet the community's need. The only domestic violence-specific shelter in Weber and Morgan counties, YCC has no access to longer-term transitional housing. Additionally, Davis County has limited amounts of longer-term transitional housing.
To help meet the need of the community and the surrounding counties, YCC is raising funds to build a long-term transitional housing project with services. The center has secured $2.55 million of the projected $5.5 million needed for the building. It will include 14 apartments with space for up to 50 individuals. People can access the housing and its services for three months or up to two years depending on the need.
"It's no secret that there is limited attainable housing in Morgan and Weber counties. Transitional housing will reduce that need and reduce burdens on health care, first responders, the judicial system, child protective services, homelessness and crime," said Margaret Rose, YCC's executive director. "More importantly, it reduces the chances of a victim returning to their abuser."
For more information regarding YCC Family Crisis Center and its housing project visit its yccogden.org.
Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online at udvc.org.
Domestic violence prevention resources
Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting: