Dove Center officials discuss day of service, impact of pandemic on Erin Home renovations with Washington City Council

Erin's Home, Washington City, Utah, May 7, 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — A discussion for a proposed day of service at Erin’s Home in Washington City turned into an update of how the pandemic has postponed the Dove Center’s efforts to renovate the facility, and how it has also impacted aspects of the nonprofit’s work overall.

In this file photo, Erin’s Home has an open house, Washington City, Utah, May 7, 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

During a work meeting of the Washington City Council held last Wednesday, representatives of the Dove Center of St. George, a nonprofit focused on supporting survivors of domestic violence and abuse and sexual assault, approached the council at the invitation of Council member Kurt Ivie to begin discussing when the city might promote a day of service at Erin’s Home.

Erin’s Home, which opened in 2015, hosts three transitional housing units used by the Dove Center for women and their children who have escaped abusive environments. The goal is to provide a safe place for survivors and their families to stay as they receive support, and eventually move on to a more permanent housing situation where possible.

Currently, the backyard floods when heavy rains pass through, Ivie said, and noted his business will aid in fixing this issue. In addition to that, the Dove Center wants to install new playground equipment in the backyard for the younger children who stay there. This would include the installation foam surface tiles in a part of the backyard as well.

“We need help. We don’t need a handout,” Madonna Melton, the Dove Center’s shelter and operations director told the council. “We need a helping hand.”

Recent rains causing some flooding in the backyard of Erin’s Home due to poor drainage issues that the Dove Center officials hope to resolve with volunteer help, Washington City, Utah Oct. 5. 2021 | Photo courtesy of Washington City, St. George News

The Dove Center lacks the expertise and manpower to set up the playground, Melton said, which is a reason why a day of service is being proposed. It is hoped members of the community who can lend that “helping hand” and have the know-how that can help with the installation of the tiles and playground will come out when the opportunity presents itself.

“There are a lot of people in our community who know how to do those things and are very generous,” Ivie said.

Before a date for the service day can be finalized, however, some of the equipment and surface tiles need to be funded and ordered. Melton did not ask the city for funding in this regard, but rather requested the council promote that need to the community at large..

Dove Center officials hope to have the flooding issue fixed and new playground installed prior to an open house for Erin’s Home they have planned for early next year, said Lindsey Boyer, the Dove Center’s executive director.

Both Melton and Boyer noted that when the Dove Center has an issue that needs resolving, something happens that takes care of it. The women added they are hopeful that trend will continue as they appeal to the greater community for help.

“Things just work out one way or the other the way that they need to and we’re just moving on,” Boyer said.

In this file photo, Dove Center Executive Director Lindsey Boyer talks about the challenges securing funding during the 2020 pandemic, St. George, Utah, March 29, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

As far as a recent show of community support is concerned, the Dove Center received a $30,000 donation from BlvdHome in March.

While visiting with the Washington City Council Wednesday, Boyer took the opportunity to update council members on efforts to renovate Erin’s Home and how it had been stalled due to the pandemic and related issues.

The Dove Center approached the City Council in January 2020 to apply for funding through a Community Development Block Grant, a federal grant the city generally receives on an annual basis. The requested funding would go toward a renovation inside Erin’s Home that would create two additional family-sized, transitional housing units on the ground floor.

The council approved a grant for over $173,000 to go toward the project in May 2020.

While the Dove Center issued public notices for contractors to bid on the project, no bids came, Boyer said. Having a bid is a required to be able to use the federal grant money.

“As smoothly as getting the grant went, executing the grant got a little bumpy because of the pandemic impact with the economy and building market,” she said.

This, combined with related factors like supply chain disruptions and material shortages, has led to the ground floor renovation of Erin’s Home being postponed for the time being, Boyer said. As for the grant the Dove Center received, they may need to withdraw from it and apply for it again in two years, she said.

In this file photo, the Washington City Council hears from representatives of the Dove Center as they ask for grant funding toward renovations to Erin’s Home, Washington City, Utah, Jan. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The Dove Center has nonetheless gotten “creative” with funding, Boyer said, adding the nonprofit had been able to secure one new transitional housing unit in the community for now, but are still in need of another.

Further complicating the need to acquire additional units that can be converted into transitional housing is the ongoing housing shortage.

“There is a huge gap, and there will continue to be until we have more housing units,” Boyer said.

Another aspect of the Dove Center’s mission that has increased due to the pandemic is the overall number and intensity of the of cases it has taken on.

When the pandemic first started, Boyer said response to cases was relatively quiet, then skyrocketed until going quiet again, only to skyrocket once more and finally plateau.

The increase in domestic violence cases during the onset of COVID-19 has been referred as a “shadow pandemic” and “a pandemic within a pandemic” by national publications like TIME that have highlighted the issue.

“We’ve had at least a 35% increase in the number of hotline calls we’ve fielded from year to year, moving from 2020 to 2021,” Boyer said.

There has also been an increase in the Dove Center’s client base and the services provided, with the workload being handled by advocates and clinicians becoming ever heavier and more intense per client than previously experienced, Boyer told the council.

“That’s been the lovely impact of COVID,” she said.

For more information on the Dove Center and Erin’s Home and how to get involved, visit the Dove Center’s website.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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