Friday, July 6, 2012

Federal funds and grassroots donations permit re-opening of women's shelter in remote Alaskan village

The women's shelter in Emmonak, Alaska (population 831) has re-opened, a few weeks after it closed following exhaustion of its federal funding due to the high price of heating oil during a particularly brutal winter.   The shelter was able to re-open after it received more than $30,000 in donations from the public and a $50,000 in an emergency grant from the federal government.  The funds rolled in after a May, 2012 story in the New York Times that highlighted the plight of the shelter, which has been operating since 1978.  Read that earlier story here, and my blog post about it here.  The New York Times article about the re-opening is here.

The shelter serves about 500 women and children each year from the dozen or so villages in the Yukon River delta.  Sexual assault and domestic violence rates are much higher in the area than the national average in this remote area, which is 500 air miles from Anchorage and accessed only by two flights from there, which can cost as much as $800.

The Emmonak Women's Shelter is the "only such facility in a region in which there are few police officers, no transitional housing for women and limited options for women seeking to escape.  There are few passable roads in the region.  During the winter, residents travel via snow machine or by aircraft."

The emergency grant came from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, while the typical source of federal funding for the shelter is the Department of Justice.

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