The construction crews moved dirt and dug a foundation Thursday next to the Homer Avenue Plaza in Cortland.
The site will host something Cortland needs but doesn’t have: long-term housing for women and children of domestic abuse and violence, said Kelly Tobin, the executive director of the YWCA in Cortland.
“We’re really excited to see a project like this come to fruition,” she said.
The project, in the making since 2015, will be a 25-unit residential complex for women and their children to live in as they make their way out of temporary housing.
The YWCA offers a safe dwelling for up to 12 people to live in for up to 90 days to escape abuse and get support, Linda Glover, the program director for Aid to Victims of Violence, a program run through the YWCA, said previously.
But that leaves a gap.
“It takes about three years for women to get their lives back on track after escaping a domestic violence situation,” said Andrea Rankin, a member of the YWCA’s housing committee.
The complex, which will feature a communal kitchen, a computer lab and a playground, will help serve the home needs as women work to get the help they need.
Funding through the project came through a state grant awarded in 2020 to the YWCA, though Rankin wasn’t sure for how much.
Christopher Community Inc. of Syracuse, the project developer, could not be reached for details Thursday.
Lisa Hoeschele, the executive director and CEO of Family Counseling Services of Cortland County, said increases in domestic violence during the pandemic has greatly increased the need for long-term projects for domestic violence victims.
“Finding a safe haven is one of the most important aspects of a domestic violence situation,” she said.
Domestic violence had already occurred in Cortland County due to poverty and drug addiction, but the pandemic exacerbated the issue by forcing more people to stay at home, which may be a dangerous place, Hoeschele said.
Cortland police Lt. David Guerrera said in October that from March 2020 to Oct. 27, there were 183 domestic incidents reported compared to the same time last year when there were 142 reports.
Hoeschele said it is important to keep abused women and their children together.
Tobin said families will be chosen through an application process that is still being worked out.
She hopes that construction will be completed and the units will be filled by next year.