- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A surge in homicides involving women in abusive relationships and a lack of beds for victims seeking shelter have prompted some Wichita agencies to seek ways to expand capacity for domestic violence victims.

Harbor House, a shelter for women in Wichita operated by Catholic Charities, has been turning away more than 100 requests a month for shelter due to a lack of space, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1G6SM5o ) reported. That includes 178 requests that were denied in August.

“I can’t imagine a more difficult phone conversation to have than with a woman who’s just been abused and needs a place to go and for us to say . we don’t have room,” said Michael Burrus, executive director of Catholic Charities.

Six of Wichita’s homicides this year have been connected to domestic violence, police said, compared with three all of last year.

Violence endured by victims is increasing as well, shelter officials said.

Some assistance is on the way later this month when the Sisters of St. Joseph convent in southeast Wichita starts accepting referrals on Oct. 19 from Harbor House and Anthony Family Shelter, which provides assistance for homeless families.

The convent has been rechristened the Mount and will have 14 rooms available for use in the first stage. A dozen more rooms are scheduled to be available in January and 12 more will be available three months later, Catholic Charities officials said.

After new quarters for nuns now living in the convent are completed in 2018, 20 more rooms will become available.

Opening of the Mount will mean officials have to turn away far fewer victims due to lack of space.

“We’ll still have those conversations,” Burrus said. “What we’re doing here, while it’s significant and it’s substantial, it’s not going to come anywhere close to taking care of the whole problem. But it’s a huge step.”

The YWCA Women’s Crisis Center, which is a 22-bed shelter, had to turn away 550 women and children because of a lack of space in 2013. That number grew to 680 last year.

The agency is looking at a number of options for increasing short- and long-term shelter capacity, YWCA executive director Angela Lampe said.

“Part of that is recognizing that in the near future, we’re going to have to look at expanding our shelter space to at least double,” Lampe said. “In the meantime, we’ve been taking other steps to meet the need.”

The agency has found some funding to pay for more hotel stays, and the center’s board of directors is talking about adding rollaway beds in some rooms and re-evaluating other spaces for potential expansion of beds.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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