Bolton Refuge House paving the way for expansion

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Patricia Stein is seeing Bolton Refuge House on S. Farwell St. in Eau Claire pushed to its limits.

"We've grown. Since when I took over the position in 2012, we were actually a 12-room facility,” Stein, the facility’s executive director, said to WEAU 13 News on Tuesday. “With the help of our board and community individuals and investment with United Way, we have actually grown to an 18-room facility within these walls.”

However, even that's becoming too small for the emergency shelter.

The average length of a person's stay at Bolton has risen from 27 nights in 2015 to a current average of 59 nights.

“It's usually the first 72 hours that they're really in kind of that perplexed moment,” Stein said. “It is an awful lot to think of what a victim goes through, when they're leaving everything they know and then coming into something that is, at times, pretty chaotic. It's extremely intimate to be in that shelter. The real reality is our services continue to increase.

“We've been very creative to ensure that our turn-aways are minimal, but if we really did continue to operate as we were, we could see in a year from now we would have a waiting list and I would see that as being poor business.”

This is why, starting Tuesday, a "Pave the Way" fundraising push was launched to construct an addition with six apartments for those who are in need.

"We need the wing for not only the fact that the shelter is almost to capacity, but we also need the wing because of the fact it's going to better meet the need of singles and families in the greater Chippewa Valley area," Stein said.

Space along S. Farwell St. has already been prepared for the construction. The addition is also being seen as a strategic buffer between Bolton Refuge House and at nearby Wilson Park. Stein said the new wing will shield the parking lot from a direct view.

"It's a public area and we’re on a bus street. So, there have been times in which we've had individuals that have been sitting at the park trying to get messages to individuals who are here," she said.

The hope is to break ground on the wing in April of 2019 and have it finished by next December. Stein said the fundraising will go towards the $900 thousand price tag, but its overall cost will be worth greater than any dollar amount.

"There are horrific promises that are happening every day to individuals and nobody deserves to go through any struggles like that. If they come into this program, we need to make it easier and this wing is going to make it easier."

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