While we have been trumpeting with pride about the incredible accomplishment that is the new Tundra Women’s Coalition (TWC) Domestic Violence Crisis Center and Shelter in Bethel, it is not without the recognition that the need for a newer, better facility is a sad commentary about Alaska.

The new $9 million facility provides a safer and more secure environment for women and children escaping domestic abuse in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region. The new shelter boasts a number of security and technology improvements like security cameras, a key monitoring system, and the ability to send the building into lockdown.

The shelter is designed to accommodate both those who need short term emergency housing, and those who require a longer period of time to put their lives back on a healthy track. There’s a communal kitchen with freezer space to accommodate traditional foods; a bank of washers and dryers, indoor and outdoor play areas for kids, private telephone access and space for group therapy.

Another improvement is a dedicated space for the Teens Acting Against Violence program that focuses on breaking the domestic violence cycle through peer-to-peer discussion, performances and community education.

Pulling together the funding for the shelter was no easy task, and in the end required a network of organizations and individuals. Rasmuson Foundation joined the Denali Commission, State of Alaska, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, City of Bethel, Bethel Community Services Foundation, and many, many others in making the project a reality. And in the end, the shelter still lacks some amount of furnishings that it needs to be complete: donations are being sought for playroom toys, outdoor play equipment, beds, couches, dining tables and chairs.

In 2008, 300 people sought shelter at TWC. This year, the number has grown 25 percent to 397. Eighty percent of those TWC serves are from rural villages where escaping an abuser is often more difficult for social and geographic reasons.

See photos from TWC’s opening celebration and ribbon cutting here.

View KTUU Channel 2 and KTVA Channel 11 coverage of the opening ceremony.