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The public launch of an $8 million fundraising campaign for a new family housing center and domestic violence shelter in Missoula is off to a strong start, which includes a $1.1 million donation from Kathy Veazey.

Since October, the YWCA Missoula and the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative have quietly worked on the capital campaign, hoping to raise 70% of the funds from individuals and private foundations before they kicked off the public campaign.

As of Thursday morning, they had raised $6.5 million, which YWCA Executive Director Cindy Weese called “an incredibly successful 82%” of the goal.

Veazey, who is co-chair of the capital campaign, said she’s excited to kick off the public campaign. She was born and raised in Missoula, then traveled the world with her family for 36 years before returning to Missoula.

“I was pretty impressed with Missoula … and was really impressed with the YWCA’s mission and how they run it like a business, with Secret Seconds making up almost half of their budget,” Veazey said on Thursday. “My philosophy is I’ve had a very good life, an interesting life, and Missoula is an amazing place. I decided that’s where I wanted to put my support.

“The YWCA is one of my charities. They are amazing.”

According to Weese, Missoula has the highest population of homeless families in the state, yet is the only metropolitan area in Montana without a family shelter. The new three-story, 36,750-square-foot building that will be constructed on West Third Street near the Good Food Store will provide same-day access to emergency housing for families with children, plus hold the YWCA’s offices and expand the domestic violence shelter.

Groundbreaking is set for later this summer, and the shelter is expected to be open by the end of 2020.

“This project will provide a much-needed safety net for vulnerable families in this community,” Weese said. “By providing early intervention and stability for children, we have the ability to end the cycle of violence and homelessness.”

Also making significant contributions is the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative, a group of 32 various faith communities and neighborhood organizations and businesses that work together on a number of different community challenges. Casey Dunning, the collaborative’s executive director, said they’ve worked with 2,500 people on this pressing challenge.

“The reality is there are families that are losing their housing and no secure, safe place for them to go,” Dunning said. One of the collaborative’s programs is Family Promise, in which they help stabilize homeless families. Helping the YWCA build a facility seemed like a perfect fit with the program, Dunning said.

“We were both trying to tackle the problem independently,” Dunning said, noting that they started talking with the YWCA about the project in 2015. “Ultimately, the goal with the facility is to create a safety net if a family is losing their housing or fleeing because of domestic violence. They’ll have a safe place to stay right away.”

Weese expects 60 or more children to be living in the new facility at any given time, and the YWCA will offer longer-term support when the families move out.

“Our goal is to get them into their own home,” Weese said.

The total budget for the project is $13.2 million, with some of that funding coming from Community Development Block Grants, Tax Increment Financing and YWCA equity.

“The YWCA has been in the community for 100 years, so we have some assets we have sold and are contributing to this project as well,” Weese said. “We’re also hoping to use some tax credit funding and should finalize all that this summer.”

For more information about the project and capital campaign, visit SeeThemHome.org.

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