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A SAFE Space unit

The lease on D.C.’s only 24-hour domestic violence crisis shelter expired on Sept. 30, and the nonprofit that runs it, DC Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, has yet to find a permanent replacement space for the shelter.

Building Partnerships—a development firm that specializes in affordable housing—has agreed to extend the length of DC SAFE’s lease to the end of fiscal year 2016 on the condition that DC SAFE relinquishes two units at the shelter by the end of November. The move will bring DC SAFE down to just 18 units, which accommodates about as many families.

DC SAFE’s Executive Director Natalia Otero says BP is attempting to sell those two units, and that the firm is also looking to re-acquire an additional three units over the course of fiscal year 2016, which ends next September.

“We knew all along it was temporary,” Otero says in an email, “but BP is being gracious.”

DC SAFE’s Natalia Otero, center, with Bob Aramony, left, and Michael Milliner, right, of Building Partnerships

Two families are currently staying in the units DC SAFE will relinquish to BP, but Otero says DC SAFE is negotiating an exit that will not shorten the families’ stays.

The approximately 20 units SAFE currently rents provide a safe haven for survivors of abuse, with those affected by domestic violence given access to SAFE Space’s housing within an hour of the reported incident. Survivors can stay for a period of up to 30 days.

BP has also partnered with DC SAFE in a joint bid for public land through D.C.’s Department of Housing and Community Development. If approved for the land, DC SAFE will design a larger, permanent crisis shelter that would house about 30 families.

Otero says DC SAFE has not received word from DHCD on the status of its application, which it submitted more than a year ago. The team at DC SAFE has been looking for a suitable replacement for the shelter for over two years.

“I am very disheartened by how this turned out,” Otero says, “but I know both BP and the dream team we put together is working tirelessly to help us find a solution.”

Photos by Darrow Montgomery