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Our History

Shelter House began in 1978 as a program of Woodland Centers, a non-profit mental health center serving West Central Minnesota. In 1995, the agency added Harmony Visitation Center which provides parenting time services.  The agency also added domestic violence community advocacy programs for Kandiyohi, Renville, and Swift Counties, and the Criminal Justice Intervention Program. In 1999, Shelter House became an independent 501(c)(3) agency. That same year, domestic violence community advocacy programs were added for Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, and Meeker Counties.


In May 2005, after a successful capital campaign, the Shelter opened its doors to a 16 bed emergency shelter. Later that year, Shelter House added youth programming and began providing sexual assault victim advocacy services in Swift, Renville, and McLeod counties. In 2006, sexual assault victim advocacy services were added for Kandiyohi County.


In 2010, Shelter House officially changed its name to Safe Avenues to better reflect the services provided and the various avenues to safety.


Today, Safe Avenues provides advocacy, parenting time services, and emergency safe shelter to victims of domestic and sexual violence.


1978 to June 1998:
Shelter House operates as a program of Woodland Centers, a non-profit mental health center serving West Central Minnesota. During this time, Shelter House's administrative offices and emergency residential accommodations for victim families were located in buildings that were previously part of Woodland Center's detox center.


July 1998:
All Shelter House functions relocate to a small, private residence on 19th Avenue SW, in Willmar.

July 1999:
The Shelter House became legally incorporated as an independent, non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation that provides a variety of domestic violence services and safe refuge for women and children.  Shelter House is governed by a Board of Directors appointed from the six primary counties served in which it provides services.

The Shelter House Board of Directors researches the need for a new, more suitable location and facility for both administrative and emergency shelter services. After concluding that there were no available existing buildings in the Willmar area that could feasibly be converted to meet Shelter House's needs, the Board launched a fund development program to finance and build a new administrative and residential facility.

The building project commences:

  • Capital Campaign and Building Committees are formed
  • Fund Development Manager is hired
  • Architectural and Legal consultants are hired
  • Building site is purchased
  • Cost of new building is estimated at $1.4 million
  • A Fund Development Campaign is planned


Shelter House Administrative and Emergency shelter operations move from converted private residence to LaFayette School in Willmar. Lafayette School was designed for elementary classes. It had been unused by the Willmar School District for several years. The Shelter entered into a lease agreement with the school district to occupy most of the building. The school was not an ideal facility for a shelter, but it provided the space needed to accommodate most of the victim families who needed emergency residential services and all the administrative offices needed for a growing staff.

November 2001 through June 2004
Planning and fund development activities are in full gear:

  • Building plans are developed by architect and the Building Committee
  • The Fund Development Committee implements the Capital Campaign for local funding from private sources.
  • The Fund Development Manger and Executive Director prepare applications for grants from private foundations and government entities.

July 2004 through October 2004
All the work pays off:

  • Capital Campaign target of $1.5 million is reached.
  • Contracts are let for the building contractor.
  • Construction begins.

May 2005
The new building is ready for occupancy! Residents and staff move in.

July 2005

  • Advocacy services are added for sexual assault victims in Swift, McLeod and Renville counties.
  • Youth programming begins.


July 2006

  • Sexual Assault Services are established in Kandiyohi County.


March 2007
Shelter House kicks off the first "Hope for Tomorrow" gala as an annual awareness and fundraising event.

October 2008
Shelter House celebrates 30 years providing safe shelter and advocacy for victims of domestic abuse.

July 2010
Safe Avenues is chosen as the new organization name - reserving the name Shelter House for the shelter program/facility.