Dickinson's Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center is nearing completion on a new shelter for its clients, and Rhonda Dukart, DVRCC board president, expects the nonprofit to take possession of the house in August.

"We started three years ago working on getting a new shelter built and raising the funds and getting all of the processes organized that needed to take place," Dukart said. "It's taken a long time, but ... the walls are up, the roof is on and we are back on track."

Darianne Johnson, executive director, is ready for the new shelter to be available to DVRCC's clients.

"It'll be very exciting to have it done and be able to serve more people than we can now and, hopefully, have a bedroom for every family instead of having to put everyone we have in the shelter into four bedrooms."

A safe place for victims of rape, assault and domestic violence is needed, Johnson said.

"A lot of women aren't even able to go back to their home because it's too dangerous to do so, and nine times out of 10 there's children involved as well," she said. "The shelter is a place where they can get things straight and figure out where they want to go and what to do and move forward in their lives."

Greater space was desperately needed.

The current shelter-"basically an old house," Dukart said-has only four bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a small kitchen area, no toy room and no space for older children.

"It's very inadequate to serve the volume of victims we have," she said. "Seeing that house, and seeing how cramped people were in that area, it just seemed impossible that we could not provide a better environment for victims that have already suffered so much in their lives."

The new shelter will be an improvement, Dukart said.

"We'll actually have bathrooms, so we don't have 12 little children trying to get into the one bathroom that's got a bathtub," she said. "We will have two family rooms, so a mother who comes in with three or four children can stay in the same room with her children. Today, we can't do that often, and often, victims will come and the environment is so uncomfortable that they end up just going back to the abuser."

There will also be space for pets, Dukart said.

"We have victims that are afraid to leave their abuser because today they can't bring their pet, and they know that pet will probably be tortured or killed because they've left," she said. "In the new shelter, there will be space so if a victim needs to bring her puppy or cat, she can do that."

DVRCC is more than a safe place. It also provides restraining orders, help with physicians and counseling, and access to drug addiction treatment.

The need for these services is greater than ever, Dukart said.

"When people think the whole opioid epidemic is just not a reality, they don't understand how prevalent it is here in southwestern North Dakota," she said. "It is the root of many problems that happen, which result in people ending up needing our services."

The center has received much support from the community, Dukart said.

"This community supports and gives like no other," she said. "There's been many generous donors that have helped with donations, which is the only way this is possible. We have received funds from the city, from the state and then some from federal."

Dukart said she is excited to see the new shelter finally being realized.

"I can't really express how satisfied I am that we can finally give some dignity to children and women who have been abused in so many different ways," she said. "They can go to a safe place. They can have privacy. They can have the services they need to move through this crisis and get on to a better point in their life."

For more information about the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center and its services, contact (701) 225-4506.