HAMILTON — Domestic abuse and violence can happen to anyone any time. Additionally, it can be hidden behind closed doors.
SAFE, a shelter in Hamilton, provides programs and support to people who need help escaping or have escaped abusive situations.
They are working towards a future free of abuse and violence, by expanding their shelter.
Long-time board member and volunteer Mary Lyn got involved with SAFE due to her past experiences with abuse. “I’m a survivor."
Lyn almost died trying to leave her abuser and she didn’t have a shelter like Hamilton’s SAFE to turn to. “Coming from an era where there were no shelters. I know [now] what a difference having a shelter makes.”
In 1988, SAFE, or Supporters of Abuse Free Environments began offering help to people impacted by domestic violence.
“We provide emergency shelter and transitional housing and community-level programs all geared towards reducing both the incidents and the impacts of domestic and sexual violence here in Ravalli County," explained Executive Director Stacey Umhey.
Stacey Umhey has been working with SAFE since 1997. She feels called to support those in need and show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Umhey shared, “I do this work to honor the experience of far too many people that I know and that you know.”
The current shelter has four bedrooms that served 353 adults and 55 children this past year. Unfortunately, they have been over capacity. An expansion will allow SAFE to serve more people in need.
“Being able to expand our shelter is going to make such a difference in this community. Being able to go from 4 bedrooms to 8 means we’ll very seldom have to say ‘I’m sorry there’s no room here tonight' when someone comes to the door needing help,” Lyn said.
SAFE broke ground on their expansion project on Friday in Hamilton. They hope to have the project completed around November 2024.
Lyn is eager for the extra space. “What [the expansion] feels like to me is being able to look at these [people] and just always be able say “you’re gonna be okay. Your family is gonna be okay.’”
For anyone in a violent situation, SAFE has a 24-hour helpline at 406-363-4600.