The OKC Sanctuary Women’s Development Center serves as a sanctuary

Homeless women and their children are offered help and hope at a former church in Stockyards City.

For many of them, the OKC Sanctuary Women’s Development Center offers some of the comforts of home at a time when they don’t have them: food, a phone, a TV and a place to relax. Access to specific hygiene products for women and support from caring case managers are also provided at the day shelter.

No one knows that better than Angela Duncan, an Oklahoma City woman who said she found the support she desperately needed at the center, 2133 SW 11.

Duncan, 32, said the women’s day shelter provided her with a place to make phone calls, access to computers, food and opportunities to socialize with other women who were also trying to recover on foot.

For Duncan, the shelter has been a godsend – a true sanctuary for women as its name suggests.

“It’s really safe and it makes me feel stable,” she said.

“It reminds me that God is there every day, not just Sunday.”

OKC Sanctuary Women's Development Center, a shelter for homeless women, is pictured at 2133 SW 11.

Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City, a branch of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, has operated the day shelter located in the former Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church since 2009.

The faith-based agency will host a “Reds, Whites & Brews” fundraiser on July 23 to help continue much-needed homeless services in central Oklahoma City and another in Norman.

The fundraiser will take place at Dunlap Codding on Film Row and will include musical entertainment by Bethany singer-songwriter Rocky Kanaga. Beer will be provided by local breweries and four wineries selected by the event organizers will also be available for each ticket holder.

Racheal Singley, director of the OKC Sanctuary Women's Development Center, shows the center's hygiene cupboard where women's toiletries and other items are stored.

Racheal Singley, director of the day shelter, said the money to be raised through the fundraiser will come at a critical time as she has noticed an increase in the number of women asking for help at the shelter. She attributes some of that to the COVID-19 pandemic and also to the fact that it was one of the first shelters to resume operations at full capacity after the pandemic temporarily shut down in the spring of 2020.

Christi Jeffreys, director of annual giving for Catholic Charities, shared similar comments.

“Money raised through this event enables our day shelter to provide rental assistance, utility assistance as well as hygiene needs, showers, laundry and much more,” she said. declared.

Both Jeffries and Singley said the center supports homeless women and children as they navigate homelessness and transition to permanent housing. Jeffries said the center’s social workers lead the women on the path to self-sufficiency.

Artwork created by guests of the OKC Sanctuary Women's Development Center is featured on one of the walls of the Women's Day Shelter.

“A sense of self worth”

The OKC Sanctuary Women’s Development Center is located in a building that was once used as a mission site for Saturday night services at nearby Little Flower Catholic Church. Archdiocese of Oklahoma City leaders gave permission to turn the place of worship into a women’s day shelter because the building would still be used for ministry.

Kim Mizer, communications director for Catholic Charities, said a big part of what the center provides is a sense of dignity for women going through one of the toughest seasons of their lives.

“It gives them a sense of self-worth that they desperately need,” she said.

This photo shows the hygiene closet where toiletries and other donated items are stored at the OKC Sanctuary Women's Development Center.

Singley shared details of how the shelter comes alongside homeless women and children. The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every weekday, providing breakfast, access to showers, a place to do laundry, get snacks and other food, use a telephone and computers and a physical address that women can use to receive mail. Singley said the day shelter has a van that picks up women and children from the OKC Homeless Alliance every day and several overnight shelters like the Citycare Low Barrier Shelter and City Rescue Mission. She said around 45 women seek respite and assistance at the shelter each day and, like many pantries and other agencies that help the poor, the center sees more people at the end of the month when their help like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits are exhausted.

The centre’s case managers help women obtain their birth certificates and other identification documents. They also help their clients navigate the process of obtaining permanent housing and SNAP benefits. The center also provides funds to help with utility deposits and other needs once the women are able to secure housing. Singley said the shelter recently helped a woman get a car she needed to get to and from a new job.

Art depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe is featured at the OKC Sanctuary Women's Development Center.

Singley said some of the center’s clients, like Duncan, stay in one of the shelters for the night, while others can temporarily “couch surf” – sleep over with a friend or relative. Others, unfortunately, live in areas where many homeless people have pitched tents.

“The goal is to help them at the beginning of this progression to avoid them having to stay in this camp,” she said. “We want to help them before they come to that.”

Elizabeth DeBo, case manager at the OKC Sanctuary Women's Development Center, unpacks products to distribute to women visiting the day shelter.

Singley said the center had just launched an art therapy group and job skills course in conjunction with Goodwill. Additionally, she said Case Manager Elizabeth DeBo is set to start a recovery group and the center will create a life skills group to help teach things like budgeting and cooking skills.

DeBo said she wanted to work at the women’s day shelter because she experienced some of the things that many clients at the center have experienced.

“I wanted to be able to use my struggles of being homeless on the streets, of being a survivor of domestic violence, of being engulfed in addiction and overcoming all the shame and guilt and trauma of being ‘this mother “who lost her child to her family because she couldn’t stop walking away from her abuser and couldn’t stop using,” DeBo said.

“I know how powerful it is to have someone who truly understands the challenges of going into recovery and being in recovery, letting women know that they are not alone, that they are not not alone and that they have nothing more to do on their own.”

Angela Duncan picks vegetables in the garden at OKC Sanctuary Women's Development Center.

“Like being at home”

Meanwhile, Duncan said she was on her way to getting a nice place to raise her kids as she was approved for housing.

In the meantime, the cheerful and talkative woman said she is staying at the Citycare shelter until all the paperwork for her accommodation is finalized and she spends much of her days at the OKC Sanctuary women’s development center. .

She said the center was a place where she could focus on her plans for a better life for herself and her family. Case managers care about the women who walk through the doors and provide them with special experiences like monthly birthday parties and a recent Queen for a Day initiative where they were pampered and given hair and makeup sessions .

Duncan said she was also grateful that center representatives took her and other clients to a recent job fair.

“It’s nice to have care and support and to talk to someone who’s been there or just has an open heart, someone who says ‘I’ll be there with you’.” It’s a good opportunity to just focus on yourself and it gives you a chance for peace,” Duncan said.

“It’s like being at home.”

Reds, whites and beers

When: 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on July 23.

Where: Dunlap Codding, 609 W Sheridan Ave.

Cost: $65 per person. Sponsorships available.

Information/tickets: Contact Christi Jeffreys, 405-526-2323; [email protected]; or

Mara R. Wilmoth