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VALPARAISO — In a room no bigger than a walk-in closet stands a twin bed and a portable crib.

Up the winding stairway are dormitory-style rooms, each housing six women — and sometimes their children — in bunk beds.

In the evenings, the 25 residents of The Caring Place's shelter for victims of domestic violence cook dinner on a small apartment-sized stove. Just outside the kitchen is the "living room," complete with two sofas and a television for residents not only to share social time, but also where group meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are held.

The 100-year-old house that has housed the shelter for more than 25 years needs to be replaced. In addition to space issues, the infrastructure has taken a heavy toll with recent plumbing and electrical problems, which have been corrected, but cost thousands of dollars.

The organization, which offers services including advocacy, crisis counseling, sexual assault and domestic violence support and community awareness programs, has outgrown its home and officials are in the middle of a $2.8 million fundraising campaign to construct a new facility which will house 45 people and bring all of its services under one roof.

So far, Executive Director Mary Beth Schultz said, the "Under One Roof" campaign has raised some $750,000 and another $250,000 in pledges, but is approaching a deadline for the contractor to begin construction on the new facility.

The group has until August to raise 80 percent of the $2.8 million, in cash, to begin construction.

They had hoped to request $1.6 million from the Porter County Council next week to help build the new facility. However, Council President Mike Jessen said the request will not be on the agenda.

"It is extremely premature to entertain that kind of request," said Jessen. "There is not a funding mechanism in place for us to address that need."

Jessen said while he is a "huge proponent" of the programs, it isn't the council that would consider the funding, but the 10-member joint County Council/county commissioner foundation which is overseeing the funds from the proceeds of the hospital sale.

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Schultz said while the organization still hopes for help from the county, it will continue fund raising.

"We like to do things on our own," Schultz said.

The Caring Place has built in sustainability funding for operations of the new facility.

"This will be a one-time request. We could ask for the full amount, but that is not fair nor reasonable."

Schultz and Debbi Reynolds, director of client services, said the new facility will enable them to provide more and better services to more people.

The 8,000-square-foot facility will be one level and offer "just the basics," said Schultz.

There are no private places now, Schultz said, for the shelter's residents to have private meetings with their advocates or counselors or to even simply get away for a moment's peace.

"Privacy is a really big issue and one reason for the need for the move. We don't have a private place to talk, no comforting spot to meet with them," said Debbi Reynolds, director of client services.

"It will be an environment conducive to healing," Schultz said.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.