Women's Shelter

On March 31, 1975, based on a request from the Seattle Women's Commission, Councilmember Jeanette Williams proposed establishment of a temporary shelter for women subjected to domestic abuse. The proposal was approved in the Human Resources and Judiciary Committee on March 20, 1975 (Williams and Phyllis Lamphere voting yes, Tim Hill voting no). A public hearing was held on May 15 with input and support received from a wide variety of people and organizations.  On June 30, 1975, the Council passed an appropriation for six months of planning funds and the 1.5  CETA positions requested. The City proceeded to seek a sponsoring agency with whom they could enter into a memorandum of understanding. On September 25, the Salvation Army announced their plans for a shelter which, although initially accommodating sixteen women and their children, was planned to serve as a temporary shelter to over 1,200 persons beginning in early 1976.  Stating they had been unaware of the Salvation Army plans, the Seattle Women's Commission announced termination of the City's temporary shelter project on November 10, 1975. 

Excerpts from testimony at the May 15, 1975, public hearing follow.

Melissa Thompson, Seattle-King County NOW and Citizen's Service Bureau: 

Hi, my name is Melissa Thompson and I'm here tonight to testify for the Seattle-King County National Organization for Women.  But I'm also here as a person who works in a job, at the Seattle Citizen's Service Bureau, where we do get calls from women who are in need of emergency shelter.  Because of this, I'm continually confronted with the lack of living conditions and living accommodations for women with children.  And it is women with children.  As others will testify, there are no good reliable community resources in this area right now.  Many women in our society, for a variety of reasons, do not have a job outside their homes, and they rely on their husbands for their sole support.  Many have developed no saleable skills, having chosen a life role of wife and mother.  When they've discovered that the man they've married has become an alcoholic and is violent when drunk, or if the man just turns out to be plain cruel, they have few quick resources. They cannot kick the man out of the home, as it is both of theirs under community property law. She has no independent income to pay for other living accommodations. Her friends are reluctant to take her in because of the kids, but also because of fear of retaliation by the husband. She can call the police but they are reluctant to intercede. And besides, her husband will just get madder if he spends the night in jail, and will beat her up again when he gets out... Going to jail may even mean that he will lose his job, putting a further strain on the situation of the family... The need for a shelter is really not at issue.  The real question is should the City be involved... There is no reason why the City shouldn't exercise leadership in this area and we, the Seattle-King County Chapter of NOW, feel the City should.

Tamara Turner, Freedom Socialist Party:

My name is Tamara Turner and I'm speaking for the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women. The Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women support the funding of the temporary shelter for abused women that has been proposed by the Seattle Women's Commission. The desperate need for women from crimes of domestic violence has been covered up for too long. However, one shelter is in no way adequate to help the women who need such assistance. More importantly, the proposal of a shelter as a solution to domestic violence in no way alters the increasing brutality and gross injustice that women face outside as well as inside the home. Domestic violence is a reflection of women's overall position in society and cannot be treated as separate and apart from all other issues. The City Council has an obligation to stop fragmenting women's issues... The City Council must start fighting against the totality of the assault against women. The City Council must start fighting for legislation that addresses the social and economic needs of people in more than a temporary or token way... The failure of City Council to act decisively on this issue wastes not only time and money but women's lives.

Frances Johnson, Salvation Army:

Yes, we support the need for an additional service in this area, very definitely. Of course, the Salvation Army has been concerned with this sort of thing for 110 years and we certainly find that it's on the increase... We made a survey last year regarding our total case load of 1974 and came up with sixty-some situations of rape that were reported, and I'm sure that many of the other women who had come to us did not admit that that was the reason they had come. Now we have spent about 20% of our overall budget on providing housing of this nature... Our plan would be to coordinate this shelter care with our own existing staff in our Family Service Department, as a backup follow-up service in the morning after a woman or a woman and her children had been received in the shelter the night before, and carry through on whatever would be necessary, about DSHS assistance or legal aid help or legal services, whatever is required to try and help her formulate a plan. She might desire to change the conditions that have given rise to her present fleeing... We are at present looking for a facility and have our eye on two or three. Any monies that would be coming to us, if they were so designated, would be strictly seed money and go right into the program right off without any further exploration. I think we all agree there is a need, and there may be a need for several facilities of this type. But ours would definitely be for women or for women with a child or with several children...

The entire public hearing can be heard here.

Citation: Human Resources and Judiciary Committee Public Hearing, May 15, 1975. Event ID 2928, Seattle City Council Legislative Department Audio Recordings.

Resources:

  • Councilmember Jeanette Williams Subject Files (Record Series 4693-02), Box 52, Folder 9
  • Clerk File 281244, Clerk Files (Record Series 1802-01), Seattle Municipal Archives