By Kathy Chouteau
Unsheltered women and children have a new place to call home with the Bay Area Rescue Mission’s (BARM) opening of a 10,000 square-foot, 114-bed shelter that’s offering them a safe space where they can rebuild their lives.
The $5.6 million dollar Muriel E. Mayes Center for Women and Children, a state-of-the-art two story building located at 257 3rd St. in Richmond adjacent to the BARM’s existing shelter, was completed with non-governmental, private funding largely donated during the pandemic. Plans for the new facility were created by Dahlin Group Architecture Planning, while Mark Scott Construction built it.
A “Grand Opening and Dedication” is planned for the media and local dignitaries next month at the new shelter, according to the BARM.
“We are thrilled to see this vision finally become a reality thanks to the loyal and generous donors who support our mission year after year,” said BARM CEO Bram Begonia, who applauded supporters who donated 60 percent of the project’s construction costs during “an extremely challenging and uncertain time.”
The need for the new shelter became apparent to BARM, when more than a decade ago, they had “no room at the inn” for women and children asking for their assistance. Further underscoring the pressing need for a new shelter was emerging information about the atrocities that many of those they turned away were experiencing.
An Episcopal Community Services study revealed that “93 percent of women are sexually assaulted within five days of being homeless while trying to survive living on the streets due to unemployment, domestic violence, lack of education, addictive behaviors, and/or unaffordable housing,” according to BARM.
“Now, for the foreseeable future, we will have a place for this vulnerable population to call home,” said Begonia, who shared that “at least 50 percent of the women who come to [BARM] have been physically victimized at the hands of another.” He added that now they will have “a safe, secure, uplifting place to heal, grow and rebuild their lives.”
According to BARM, the new shelter is named after South African native Muriel E. Mays, who dedicated her life to teaching troubled youth—many of whom had been homeless, traumatized and had behavioral issues—in what was then referred to as a reformatory.
“Muriel loved them all and taught her own children to respect and embrace those who face seemingly insurmountable challenges regardless of race, religion or social status,” said BARM. “As a beacon of love and hope for Bay Area women and children in similar circumstances, we are proud to have this building bear her name.”