Women & Children First: The Center Against Family Violence (WCF) was founded in 1976 as Advocates for Battered Women by a group of citizens concerned about the effects of domestic violence in the Little Rock community. In July 1999, the name was changed to Women & Children First: The Center Against Family Violence to better reflect the scope of services provided for clients.
During the formative years in the late 1970s, WCF primarily provided support services, including counseling through Arkansas Women’s Rights and also accompanying victims while pressing charges against their batterers. The first safe shelter was opened in 1978, housing women only in a donated private home in Little Rock.
In 1981, WCF joined with a handful of grassroots women’s groups to form the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ACADV). This is a private nonprofit statewide network of coordinated services for victims of domestic violence. Together, with the assistance of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, these groups worked to pass legislation including the Arkansas Domestic Abuse Act and the Violence Against Women Act(VAWA).
WCF began offering advocacy services for women and children, to include support groups for sheltered residents and non-resident domestic violence survivors. The transitional housing program was also established to further enable families to live independently.
WCF also began providing classes to assist clients with educational and career goals. as well as classes in life skills, parenting, and the dynamics of domestic violence for shelter house guests.
Between 1999 and 2001, the shelter was filled to capacity almost every night. More and more victims. because of space limitations. could not be accommodated. To meet the growing need, between 2002 and 2003, WCF doubled its size by moving to its current location and added more beds • a computer lab and children’s playroom and educational area.
In 2004, WCF completed a strategic plan through a special grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. During the next decade, strong board and staff leadership. good financial stewardship, and sustainable community and statewide support have provided the foundation for future planning.
During the past 15 years. WCF has maintained its 112-year-old building, improved security and enhanced safety at the shelter. But remaining in the current building is not an option.
A CRITICAL STAGE IN OUR HISTORY:
We have used innovative, resourceful and creative ways to resolve problems, but it is impractical to keep repairing all that needs to be fixed in a space that is totally inadequate for our needs.
The Current Shelter, owned by Women & Children First for 18 years, is actually 112 years old! It is a 13,500 sq. ft., 2-story house with a basement. It’s an Antebellum home with 25-foot ceilings to heat and cool, small spaces, antiquated wiring and more.
Our current Emergency Shelter includes:
- Two floors and 54 beds in single and double rooms (54 beds in 14 bedrooms)
- Kitchen in the basement, with stoves, freezers, refrigerators, dining and laundry area
- Pantry with dry food, canned goods, and staples (previously, a large closet)
- Children’s play area and education area (previously, a bedroom)
- TV/Family Room in upstairs sunroom (previously closed-in sun porch)
- Administrative offices for staff: hotline, executive director, assistant director, domestic violence advocates (5), resource development, finance, operations, shelter manager, and transitional housing advocate. These offices are located in the home’s former dining room, living room, old kitchen, sitting room, and downstairs bedroom.
Our current space is extremely old and very costly to repair. We have outgrown the current limited space and must create more efficient and useful space in a new location.