Cross-posted on the Daily Kos under betson08
First of all, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the Kossacks and other members of the netroots community for your commitment to the survival of the Pretty Bird Woman House. Helping this shelter has been one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done, and some of that has to do with the outpouring of caring and compassion that I witnessed while I was doing this project.
This morning I received an email informing me that the McLaughlin City Council had unanimously approved the shelter’s petition to operate in the house it wants to purchase. This was a wonderful accomplishment given some initial misgivings that some of the City Council Members had expressed.
A complete update on that and the fundraiser is below the fold.
For those who haven’t been following the story of the Pretty Bird Woman House, instead of pointing you to the numerous (and I mean NUMEROUS)diaries that Kossacks and others have written on the subject since May, I will simply direct you to the Pretty Bird Woman House blog, since it contains links to many of those diaries in addition to the essays that Andy T and I wrote as part of the fundraiser.
Here’s the situation in a nutshell: On December 28th, a full month early, we met our goal of raising the $70,000 that we figured the shelter needed for a new house and security system. By that time, Georgia Little Shield, the director, had placed a bid on a house near the police station. The closing would have taken place on January 4th.
Unfortunately, while all this was happening, the City of McLaughlin had passed an ordinance that required nonprofits seeking to establish a shelter or boarding house in a residential neighborhood to get the City’s permission first. This action was in response to drunk and disorderly conduct by the men in a homeless shelter in another neighborhood,
On January 7th, the City Council held a hearing on the shelter’s petition. There was some initial opposition to the shelter by some of the Council members and neighborhood residents, so they put off voting on the issue in order to gather more information and give people more time to consider the issue.
This made us all very uneasy, and I for one was waiting on pins and needles for the final decision.
But as with everything involved in this project, the best in people finally came out.
Last night, the Council unanimously voted to approve the shelter’s request. Unlike the first meeting, only positive remarks were made about the shelter staff and its future residents. As Georgia just told me:
At that meeting, everybody was for us, nobody spoke up against us.
This included the Chief of Police, who testified that the police really need the shelter to help them with women who are victims of domestic violence.
So, in the end, it seems that the mayor recognized that the shelter’s opponents just needed more information, and that his move to postpone the vote was a wise one. Here’s what he told the Rapid City Journal today.
“I think it’s going to be good. I think their hearts are in the right place,” Dumdei said of shelter officials. “Everyone’s trying to do what’s right. We just wanted to make sure that we had public input and everybody understands it.” …snip…
Dumdei said it was important to give citizens time to ask questions and feel comfortable with the planned relocation of the shelter, which is the only domestic-violence sanctuary on the Standing Rock reservation.
Amnesty International also provided a letter in support of the shelter, which the mayor cited at the meeting. Here is part of that letter (sorry I don’t have a link, it was emailed to me):
Programs run by Native American and Alaska Native women are vital in ensuring the protection and long-term support of Indigenous women who have experienced sexual violence. Shelters operated by Native American women are particularly important in order to provide the culturally appropriate supportive environment needed. However, lack of funding is a widespread problem all over the US, including in South Dakota – and in many locations no such support is available. In our report, we highlighted the work of Pretty Bird Woman House, a sexual assault and domestic violence program on the Standing Rock Reservation. At the time of Amnesty International’s report in April 2007 Pretty Bird Woman House did not have funding for direct services for its clients, but helped women to access services off the Reservation. Amnesty International believes that it is imperative that the Reservation have its own shelter.
The support that Pretty Bird Woman House has received from individuals all over the US is indicative of the response that Amnesty International has seen to this issue in general. Many people feel deeply touched by the injustices suffered for decades by Native American women, and want to help. Authorities at all levels are responding as well – at the U.S. Senate level, legislation will be introduced within the next few weeks. In Oklahoma, state laws ensuring the availability of rape kits for all women have already been passed.
The advocates, who have been running Pretty Bird Woman House for the past years with few funds but a lot of determination, have been fighting alone for too long. It is time that we stand up together and say no to violence against women – and time to support a shelter which will make all the difference in the world to women at a time when a helping hand is desperately needed.
Today, they also issued a press release that contained this information and thanked the City Council for approving the shelter.
It seems to me that the netroots worked really well in tandem with Amnesty International on this whole project, taking up the call they issued about the shelter in their report, United States of America: Maze of injustice: The failure to protect indigenous women from violence as its own cause.
On Friday, Georgia is going to set a closing date on the house. When I find out exactly what it is, I’ll post it on the blog.
Grand total of the money we raised: $87,000.
People have also sent hundreds of pounds of clothes. SallyCat alone sent 350 pounds from a drive and party she conducted in San Francisco.
The shelter is also going to be receiving a flurry of small checks because a retiree in Florida who read the Rapid City Journal articles asked that everyone who attended his birthday party last week send checks to the shelter in lieu of presents for him. Awwww…
The official house fundraiser ends tomorrow. I will be putting up a new ChipIn with no goal amount for people who still want to donate.
Work left to be done
One snafu has come up. We were basing our estimate of the cost of a security system on the one the neighboring shelter has. Bad idea. For a system that has 24 hour monitoring, the estimated cost was $24,000. Yipes! And they will still need a fence as well.
This means that the security system and fence will eat up a lot of the money they had set aside for furniture and a washer and dryer. So, when I spoke with Georgia today, she gave me a new wish list.
I know most people have given all they can, but I also know from experience that other people will want to know how they can help some more. So this is for them (I don’t want guilt trip everyone else, you all have been amazing). Some of these are replacements for items that didn’t hold up too well either in the move or in storage.
So for anyone so inclined to buy what I will call housewarming gifts, here’s what the shelter needs.
washer and dryer
8 bunk bed sets, and sheets to go on them
couch and chairs
television and stand
dining room set (the one they had collapsed in the move)
full and twin-size sheets
8 dressers (2 for each bedroom)
dishes and related kitchen supplies
Again, Kossacks, on behalf of the shelter staff, I want to extend my deepest gratitude for all your support, compassion, and kind words.
You know, a lot of us are tired of the sniping and griping that has been going on around here about the candidates, but take break from that for a second and think about what you have all done to help hundreds of women and children on the Standing Rock Reservation. It’s incredible. Pat yourselves on the back.
One more note considering this is a Democratic blog. I want to publicly thank Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) for her support. She spoke out publicly in support of the shelter when there was opposition on the City Council, has visited it at least twice, and whenever anyone calls her office about it, her staff members are extremely helpful. This is exactly the kind of commitment we need from our representatives in Congress. Thank you!