DeKALB – Safe Passage, the only domestic prevention and survivor advocacy center in DeKalb County, recently requested $2.5 million in federal aid to help pay for its new 24/7 emergency shelter, a proposal backed by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood.
Underwood, D-Naperville, recently announced a list of projects spanning across the 14th Congressional District selected to be submitted for consideration for Community Project Funding in Fiscal Year 2024.
Safe Passage executive director Mary Ellen Schaid said that having the congresswoman’s support means a great deal to the agency. The new shelter would be located at 217 Franklin St. in DeKalb just blocks from downtown.
“I am thrilled to have Lauren Underwood’s support and interest and understanding of the importance of this work that we do here,” Schaid said.
Safe Passage provides resources, shelter, programming, aid and support for survivors and families of domestic violence, including advocate work in partnership with other area agencies and nonprofits to address the prevalence of domestic violence cases in DeKalb County.
“I think that it’s also very encouraging that she had so much money that she could utilize for projects for her district. She’s got a big district. A lot of people applied, but she could only pick 15 projects. So, we feel confident because we were one of the ones that were chosen.”
— Mary Ellen Schaid of Safe Passage on U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood's support
Underwood said she is committed to ensuring that funding the selected projects will go a long way in supporting the communities they represent.
“I have always made it a priority to bring the voices of the 14th District to Congress, and I’m working hard to make sure that our community’s needs are reflected in federal funding bills,” Underwood said in a press release. “From addressing health care access in Ottawa and Peru to investing in semiconductor research, these projects will directly benefit families in northern Illinois, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring these federal dollars home.”
Safe Passage has requested $2.5 million in Community Project Funding to help make the emergency shelter possible.
The building, upon completion, aims to consolidate the agency’s 24/7 emergency shelter with space for administrative offices and counseling services.
Safe Passage currently occupies six buildings along South Fourth and South Fifth streets and is comprised of five homes and one apartment building.
The agency’s leadership said they are about $2.2 million into fundraising toward an estimated goal of $5.5 million.
Schaid said the the fact that Underwood made the Community Project Funding announcement in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, brings added significance to the agency.
“I think that it’s also very encouraging that she had so much money that she could utilize for projects for her district,” Schaid said. “She’s got a big district. A lot of people applied, but she could only pick 15 projects. So, we feel confident because we were one of the ones that were chosen.”
Schaid said the agency’s leadership has felt both seen and heard by Underwood when meeting with her to discuss the project.
“She’s been out visiting us twice,” Schaid said. “She’s a nurse by training. So, she understands that domestic violence, sexual assault is really a health crisis in our country and really in the world. So, she’s very knowledgeable and very understanding.”
Schaid expressed optimism that Underwood will be able to help secure the federal funding for Safe Passage, though the request must be backed by others on Capitol Hill, too.
“It still has to be voted by the Congress,” Schaid said. “It’s not that we’ve been awarded it yet, but we feel confident about it.”
The site of the 24/7 emergency shelter is intended to be shovel-ready by spring 2024, agency leaders said.