Shelly Stayer Shelter to break ground in Immokalee

immokalee-shelter-final2With over 27 years of service to survivors of abuse and violence, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children will soon break ground on its next phase with the construction of the Shelly Stayer Shelter for Victims of Human Trafficking & Domestic Violence aka The Shelly Stayer Shelter.

Stayer, who has been involved with the shelter more than eight years, has now turned her focus to the issue of human trafficking. Thanks to her $3 million lead gift, this 15,000-square-foot, 32-bed shelter will be constructed on five acres of property in Immokalee, FL. Designed by Naples architect David Corban, the $5.4 million facility will feature three main areas: one to accommodate the long-term therapeutic needs of victims of human trafficking; a second to shelter victims of domestic abuse; and a third dedicated to Immokalee outreach.

“We are thrilled that this much-needed shelter will soon become a reality,” said Linda Oberhaus, executive director of The Shelter. “It is a project that has been in our plans for several years. Ms. Stayer’s generosity has allowed us to fast-track this project to save and transform many lives.”

The Shelter serves as Collier County’s foremost provider, meeting the needs of victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, as recognized on Oct. 16, 2016 in a memorandum of understanding with Collier County Commissioners and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

To measure the need for the new emergency facility, Oberhaus said The Shelter conducted an extensive needs assessment, utilizing data from law enforcement and judiciary sources, information from focus groups, surveys, and interviews with Immokalee residents as well as the input of 32 community organizations.

Established in 1997, The Shelter’s Immokalee Outreach Office has grown exponentially. In 2000, The Shelter was recognized as a national model for its work serving immigrant and migrant battered women through its Immokalee Outreach Office. Oberhaus said the new emergency shelter will allow survivors in the Immokalee area to be safe as well as close to their family support systems, employment and their children’s schools.

The need to serve victims of human trafficking has also increased in Collier County, according to Oberhaus. Nationally, Florida ranks third in the country for human trafficking. The Shelter has served 38 victims of human trafficking in just the last two years. On March 6, 2015, Collier County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 15 traffickers and rescued six women, some of whom were forced to perform 25-45 sex acts a day.

“While The Shelter has always cared for victims of human trafficking, this new facility will allow us to focus on the long-term therapeutic services that are unique to these victims,” Oberhaus said. “We are very excited about this next phase of service.”

For more information on the Shelly Stayer Shelter for Victims of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence, go online to naplesshelter.org/Immokalee or call 239-775-3862.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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