The Shade Tree is the largest women’s shelter in Nevada.
It houses homeless and abused women, their children, and their pets for up to three months.
In the past, women could move into the shelter’s transitional housing, where they’d learn life skills over the course of a year.
That program, unfortunately, has closed its doors because of a lack of funding.
Heidi Kyser is the staff writer for Desert Companion magazine, which is published by Nevada Public Radio. She has been reporting on the closure for the magazine.
“It requires a lot of money, as you can imagine, to not only house and feed hundreds of women for up to a year at a time, but also provide them with mental health services they need, the security services they need, the career services, all the different things that go into preparing someone to move from a life of homelessness into a new situation and a more productive life with their families,” Kyser said.
Many of the women and children in the shelter are fleeing dangerous situations and security is vital, Kyser said.
But beyond that, the shelter's executive director Stacey Lockhart said it is just the basic needs of everyday life — from toilet paper to electric bills — for the 200 women and children living at the shelter that takes money.
The big problem now is that a federal grant the shelter usually gets did not come through.
“They had applied for a federal grant that is really designed for this type of program," Kyser said. "They didn’t get that. It is unclear why, but the loss of that was a pretty big blow.”
Now, the shelter is looking for more sustainable funding.
“Grants are great but they come and they go," Lockhart said, "They change their requirements. You can’t look into the future, planning everything on if we get this grant again. If they renew it. If funding doesn’t disappear.”
The shelter started a fundraising effort, which has already raised $160,000.
While it is a start, the money can't help the women and children who were in the program when the funding disappeared. They have been moved to other programs but none of those shelters are as large as Shade Tree.
Karri is a second-time client of Shade Tree's emergency shelter. She entered the shelter about a month ago after fleeing an abusive boyfriend, and isn't sure where she'll go when her 90 days are up. She's hoping to receive a supplemental security check from the government and is looking for a job, while working through with her own mental health issues.
“Karri does also illustrate why all of the other services that go along with the transitional housing are so critical," Kyser said. "She’s coming out of a situation where she has been severely mentally and physically abused. So, in addition to a place to stay, and food, and shelter, she also needs a lot of counseling.”
Kyser said everyone involved in social services in Southern Nevada says the loss of the transitional housing program is a "huge loss" and a blow to the community.
“I do believe everyone involved with the Shade Tree is dedicated to bringing it back," Kyser said. "I’m reluctant to look at it as permanent but for that time that this transitional housing is closed or there isn’t some other solution … it’s a terrible tragedy for the people like Karri and some of the others that we spoke to who will not have that option.”
Heidi Kyser, writer, Desert Companion magazine
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