A YWCA safe house that has been a haven for countless women trying to escape domestic violence or a sanctuary during tough times was destroyed by fire over the holidays.
Now the YWCA is attempting to rebuild it so others will have that same opportunity.
Officials said Tuesday that it is vitally important to get the house back in service because there is a waiting list for housing domestic violence victims and their children.
Officials also released some details about the incident during a briefing at the YWCA of Western New York’s Grant Street headquarters.
The blaze, which caused about $100,000 in damage, is believed to have been set by one of the three family members that had been living there for the past few months.
“This was not random. We think that one of the children may have set the fire. That child may have gone through domestic violence issues,” said Chief Executive Officer Deborah Lynn Williams.
The incident is under investigation. No one was injured, and the family has been relocated and is safe, Williams said.
Though the house is in Erie County, Williams would not reveal its specific location or the time of the fire to safeguard this family and other families that may need the service in the future.
The safe house is just one service provided by the YWCA. Its programs have expanded since it was organized in 1870 to include day care; career, education and leadership programs for at-risk youths; education and job training for teens; subsidized housing for seniors; and transitional housing for women, including victims of domestic violence.
But after the arson, the service organization itself is in need of help. Financial donations and other contributions are being requested because the house will need to be gutted and redone, due to fire damage and damage caused by the efforts to extinguish the blaze.
That damage includes saturated insulation, holes in the roof, broken windows, and ruined flooring and carpeting that must be replaced. The heating system and wiring also need to be replaced, said Gwen A. Howard, chairwoman of the board of directors.
“Every surface in the house needs to be replaced,” she said. “We need services, goods, materials, labor, cash donations.”
The organization also is looking for contributions from electricians, heating contractors, roofers, laborers and other contractors.
In terms of the possibility that a child may have intentionally started the fire, Williams pointed out that even when children are not the subject of mental or physical abuse, they often suffer trauma and stress just by witnessing domestic violence. It is one of the many tragedies of domestic abuse, Williams said, and may have been behind the actions of the child who is believed to have set the fire.
To make donations or financial contributions to the YWCA or to offer services, call the organization’s headquarters at 852-6120, Ext. 122, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.