CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In lieu of breaking ground, officials chose to use sledgehammers to “tear down walls against domestic violence” last week at the new location of Clarksville Area Urban Ministries SafeHouse.

The new location will take the SafeHouse domestic violence shelter from 16 beds to a 52-bed facility, the City of Clarksville announced in a Monday news release. The SafeHouse location itself is not identified publicly for the safety of its occupants and users.

Officials said the expansion is needed because of an increase in domestic violence cases partly brought on by growth in Clarksville and Montgomery County. The new facility will not only increase capacity but will allow Clarksville Area Urban Ministries to offer more services.

“With this move, we are adding a transitional component that will be an extension of the shelter and services as we help survivors transition back into sustainable living on their own,” said Jodi McBryant, Executive Director of Clarksville Area Urban Ministries.

All services at SafeHouse are free and confidential. There is currently a 24-hour hotline, along with residential and non-residential programs, case management, information and referrals, safety planning, support groups, individual therapy, and community outreach and education.

Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts talks at a recent ceremony for the new SafeHouse location. (Courtesy: City of Clarksville)

In recent ceremonies, McBryant’s team, Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden, and others, grabbed sledgehammers to begin tearing down a wall in the new facility, which will be extensively remodeled in phases.

The first phase is expected to cost about $1 million and should be complete in about three to four months. It is being funded federally through Community Development Block Grants administered by the City of Clarksville’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department.

“It’s addressing homelessness, domestic violence … and hope,” said Dennis Newburn, Director of Neighborhood and Community Services. “To have been involved with this organization, and to find ourselves where we are today, has been a very impactful journey for me. It’s very huge to be a part of a project that makes life better for others.”

Newburn credits Sandra Simms and Benny Weakley, Board Chair and Trustee for Urban Ministries, and Mayor Pitts, for their support and encouragement. In ceremonies, Mayor Pitts thanked Newburn and his staff for seeing the funding through, and said the city is “all in.”

“The reason we do this is because we believe in Urban Ministries,” Mayor Pitts said. “The good news is, you’re going to triple your space. The bad news is you have to triple your space.”

Mayor Golden said of the project, “It is sad that we have to have this mission. I would like to pray for this building and the folks that work in it.” He then asked the small gathering at last week’s ceremony to join him in prayer.

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The project architect is Pam Powell, and the engineer and contractor is Ed Neely, both of whom call it a labor of love that has a different feel from most work they typically do.