EVERETT — The walls were bare, the dreams big.
Snohomish County leaders packed the rooms of a former military site in north Everett on Tuesday morning to celebrate a ground-breaking for a new domestic violence shelter planned there.
The event marked more than six years of work by Domestic Violence Services and community partners to secure the site, officials said. They plan to renovate existing buildings to house the shelter and staff.
The federal government designated the three-acre, $4 million property surplus in 2012.
Speakers on Tuesday included U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson.
Domestic violence is the biggest cause of homelessness in the community, Stephanson said.
“I know all of us wish that we didn’t need facilities like this,” he said. “We must face reality and the reality is we need more protection for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.”
Snohomish County councilmembers, Sheriff John Lovick, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and Everett Police Chief Kathy Atwood also attended, as well as Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe and numerous other civic leaders.
DVS Executive Director Vicci Hilty spoke briefly, thanking people who have worked on the project.
“It’s not a building, baby, it’s a heart,” she said.
After the speeches, people posed for pictures holding shovels at the site. Others took tours.
In the halls before the event, DVS board members greeted each other with hugs and smiles.
Two of them, Pete Grodt and Bernie Terry, co-chaired the campaign to raise money for the project.
Grodt saw the legal notice in the newspaper announcing that the property was declared surplus, he said. The move will save DVS roughly $48,000 a year in rent.
Having everything in one place also will save time and money, Terry said.
The old shelter has 15 beds, Grodt said. The new one will have 52.
“Isn’t it great, Bernie?” he asked.
“I have my pockets full of Kleenex,” she said.
The city helped secure grant dollars for the project as well, Stephanson said. He also thanked Larsen for help in securing the site.
On Tuesday, there was plenty of work left to do at the property. Black wire cages full of old office chairs lined one end of a gymnasium. Signs printed on office paper marked planned locations for services, including a teen area.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com.
Note: To protect victims from abusers, Domestic Violence Services asks that exact locations of the current and proposed shelter not be disclosed.