After working at a local metro area shelter for several years, Melanie Gray, of Elk River, decided she needed to do something more.
“It was hard to see the shelter fill up and have to turn people away, especially women coming from domestic violence,” Gray said.
She wanted to help women who were victims of domestic abuse and so Gray set into action a plan of opening up a safe house within her own home for those women.
“I just felt terrible that there weren’t any specific battered women shelters in the area that could help these women which would lead them right back to the abuser,” Gray said recently noting the cycle we hear about all too often.
Gray decided that she could start by helping women right in her community, right at her home.
“I’ve got a big house and it’s just me,” she said.
So Hartley’s Safe House was born, the name stemming from her maiden name. Gray can host up to six residents in her home in the Elk River area.
“That could be two women with children, or several women and no children,” she said. Hartley’s has been open since October of 2015.
Currently, she has one woman living with her and one who just recently moved out on her own. The women stay free of charge for 60 days while they get support and resources and the ultimate goal is that they are then ready to move out on their own. Most homeless shelters only allow residents to stay 15-30 days and sometimes in the case of domestic violence this isn’t enough time for restraining orders, orders for protection or getting life in order to have the ability to not go back to the abuser.
While Hartley’s Safe House is set up to be a residential shelter for battered women, Gray and her services are available to any woman in the area who needs help, even if it’s not just a place to stay.
“We’re open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day,” she said.
Gray can’t do it alone, she relies on the help of volunteers and also, thanks to a grant she received from the Wright County Electric Co-Op has a very part time staff employee who helps out, in addition to someone who helps with computers. “We are always accepting donations and volunteers,” she said.
She has hopes that the home will help many women and eventually she’d like to get teens involved and work with them to start preventing some domestic violence before it begins.
If you’re interested in volunteering your time or make a donation you can reach out to Melanie via her website.