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What's Happening?

YWCA offers refuge

When Lisa arrived at the YWCA of Schenectady, she had some clothes, a couple of hairbrushes and the car she used to flee an abusive relationship. 

Everything else was left behind.  

After a 30-day stint at the YWCA shelter, Lisa - not her real name - transitioned into the organization’s rapid re-housing (RRH) program, which provides rental assistance and other support that helps domestic violence survivors live independently in the community. 

Upon arriving at the home staff at the YWCA found for her and her young daughter, she was amazed to discover a fully furnished apartment, with new beds, sheets, tables, lamps and toiletries such as toothpaste and body wash. 

“I was in shock,” Lisa, 32,  recalled. “It was such a relief. I was worried. ‘OK, now I've got to get the beds, now I’ve got to get this.’ So to see all that furniture was an instant relief.”  

In late 2022 the YWCA received $20,000 from The Schenectady Foundation and Barbara J. Vivier Fund for Women, which is managed by The Schenectady Foundation. The funding will support two YWCA programs: RRH and Patty’s Place, a drop-in center in the city’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood where at-risk women get free feminine hygiene products, contraceptives and other essential items. 

Patty’s Place is often a point of entry to the YWCA for women in need. In 2022, 8% percent of the women served by Patty’s Place went on to participate in the rapid re-housing program, 13% entered the YWCA’s domestic violence shelter and 90% received domestic violence support services. 

The bulk of the YWCA’s grant funding will go toward furnishing the apartments used by people like Lisa. Women seeking help from the YWCA often leave home in great haste, with few belongings or resources. 

“Of course, it’s a victory when a woman moves into her own place, but from the standpoint of the woman, you’re looking at a barren space,” said Kyla Meltzer, grant writer at the YWCA. “(The grant) will help buy furniture, utensils - the basic necessities that make a house feel like a home.” 

At the YWCA, Lisa found an understanding and compassionate organization eager to support her efforts to attain a better life. 

During her two-plus years in the rapid re-housing program, Lisa paid $550 of her $850 rent; the YWCA covered the difference. The financial support allowed her to cut back her work hours, giving her time to take courses at Schenectady County Community College. She is now a preschool teacher, working toward her bachelor’s degree and paying full rent. 

“If I had a mishap or I was late on my rent, it was never, ‘Oh, you’re going to get kicked out of the program,’’' Lisa said. “It was, ‘What can we at the YWCA do? Let’s make a plan.’ … I could be honest with them.” 

YWCA staff, from left Tami Rayne, Cheyenne Lovell, Kim Siciliano, Kyla Meltzer, pose in front of a mural at the Washington Avenue building.

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