Aldermen pass plan to add four-story domestic violence shelter to Evanston YWCA building

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Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) at a city meeting. Fiske and other council members unanimously passed a plan to expand the Evanston YWCA location.

Sam Heller, Reporter

Aldermen on Monday unanimously passed a plan to expand and update the YWCA Evanston/North Shore location.

The YWCA, 1215 Church St., has existed in Evanston since the 1930s, and provides a wide range of residential domestic violence programs as well as hosting various protests and marches to combat racism and sexism.

In the new plan, the YWCA will add a new two-story entrance and a four-story domestic violence shelter. The proposal included multiple requests for site development allowances, such as proposed parking spaces where no parking is permitted and a four-story development in an area with a 2.5 story maximum allowance.

During the Planning and Development Committee meeting, more than a dozen residents showed up in bright orange YWCA shirts, standing behind multiple YWCA committee members who stressed the importance of the location to the council.

“Our new family support center is innovative, it’s healing, and it offers respect and dignity the women and children deserved,” said Sandy Williams, the domestic violence services director at the YWCA. “It will double the capacity we have, allowing us to serve more survivors and children, both in our shelter and in our community counseling program.”

However, YWCA members stressed to the aldermen the importance of this expanded space in the community.

The YWCA has had to turn away women and children because they lack the physical space, said Sarah Malone, a YWCA board member.

“Over 30 years ago, when I needed the YWCA most, in the middle of the night, my daughter and I landed at the YWCA emergency shelter,” Malone said. “The YWCA was an environment where the seeds of transformation, of thriving and not just surviving, could take root.”

While aldermen did not voice many objections to the project, Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) asked for the preservation of the local history near the site of the development. The only time Abraham Lincoln ever spent a night in Evanston was at a house located around the corner.

“I want to try to find a way to recognize the history of that new site in Evanston,” Fiske said.

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