The YWCA has served Cass and Clay Counties for over one century. They began offering their first community outreach programs in 1906 by providing housing for women coming from farms to attend college in Fargo-Moorhead. In 1978 their mission would evolve to providing emergency shelter and supportive services to homeless women and children and domestic abuse victims. So far they have helped tens of thousands of women and children in the area — last year alone they helped 1,400.When a woman first comes to the YWCA for help, the emergency shelter fulfills their immediate needs. The largest of its kind in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, they provide women and their children with their own beds, blankets, pillows, toiletries, clothing, and everything else they need to live comfortably as soon as they enter.
“On average, a woman spends 36 days in our emergency shelter,” explained Karissa Monette, YWCA Cass Clay communications manager. “Providing immediate needs is not enough, however, to end the cycle of poverty and abuse. That is why while a woman is in our care we help her to discern her goals, whether they may include advancing her education, providing a stable environment for her children to flourish in, or whatever else she needs to do in order to thrive.”
“Of course,” continued Karissa, “Lack of earning potential, poor credit, and debt are common impediments for many women who are trying to get on their feet, because the wages they often earn are not enough to pay rent and cover all the other expenses of caring for a family. That is why we offer our Supportive Housing program. This program provides women and their children with an affordable, safe, and fully furnished apartment. With the groundbreaking of our new housing community in West Fargo last June, the YWCA will offer 62 apartment homes total by the spring of next year.”
Women in the YWCA’s Supportive Housing program receive life and career coaching, as well as transportation and any other assistance they need on their journey toward independence. What’s more, their children benefit from Children’s Services programming, including Study Buddies, designed to help school-aged children succeed academically. With these resources, independence is finally within their reach.
“We owe everything we’re able to do to the generous support of our community,” explained Karissa. “Our volunteers give us their time to take kids to places like the zoo or pool, donations for our programs, food for our food pantry which everyone in the community is welcome to share from, and all of the other various support that women and children in our charge need urgently.” (These urgent needs are updated weekly on the YWCA’s website.)
The YWCA accepts donations of gently used items at their shelter at 3000 S University Dr in Fargo. For another way to help the YWCA’s mission, go to their 35th annual Chocolate Fantasy and Chili, too! celebration this September 6th at the Delta by Marriott at 1635 42nd St S in Fargo. There you may enjoy local chocolate delicacies, bid on auctions, and of course enjoy piping hot chili, all in the name of noble philanthropism. To learn more about the YWCA’s mission and how you can support it, please visit ywcacassclay.org.
By David Scheller