Local groups collaborate for women’s shelter


It may not look like much, but a run down home in Winchester is soon to become a new shelter for homeless women.

Together with the Blue Ridge Habitat for Humanity, Area 1 Rotary, and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, the Winchester Rescue Mission is opening a women’s shelter in downtown Winchester.

“Pretty much every system in this building needs to be dealt with,” said Scott Santmier​​​​​​, pastor of local outreach at Fellowship Bible Church in Winchester.

Santmier is heading up the renovation work for the Clifford Street building, which is owned by Blue Ridge Habitat for Humanity. Leaders from all of the organizations involved recognized a need in the community for a women’s shelter.

“Particularly women’s transitional housing […] has been one of those gap areas that’s been identified,” said Blue Ridge Habitat for Humanity’s executive director Matthew Peterson. “Through this multi-lateral partnership […] we’ve been able to work with various organizations to all come together and make this happen.”

The three bedroom house will accommodate 15 women, with additional space in the attached apartment next door. That’s more than double the current capacity of the Winchester Rescue Mission’s existing women’s shelter.

Executive director of the Winchester Rescue Mission Brandan Thomas says the current shelter simply can’t meet the community’s need.

“Since February we’ve had, we’ve logged so far over 200 calls from ladies needing somewhere to stay,” said Thomas. 

Blue Ridge Habitat for Humanity purchased the property in June, but renovations haven’t started yet. Santmier remains optimistic that they’ll have the shelter operational before long.

“My hope would be end of November, beginning of December. But depending on the way everything falls together, it may be as late as January,” he said. “Our hope is that as the season gets colder, we hope to have it open and ready.” 

The Fellowship Bible Church is looking for volunteers to help physically and financially with the project. If you’d like to help, you can contact Scott Santmier at fbc@fbcva.org or by calling (540) 662-7743.

The Winchester Rescue Mission will be collecting donations to furnish the shelter. To donate, contact the mission at (540) 667-5379.

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