Women's Shelter and Support Center
Saving Lives. Restoring Hope. Changing Futures.


Our story.



The Women's Shelter and Support Center was started by and has been sustained by survivors of domestic abuse. It began in the late 1970’s as a task force by three survivors and the Rochester Chapter of NOW who were determined to give other abused women something they didn't have: a safe and secure place to live and help in learning how to live independently. Over the years, Women's Shelter and Support Center has expanded to provide more space to safely house women and children. 

In addition, the Women's Shelter and Support Center has added children's advocacy, an International Shelter with programming specific to immigrant battered women and their children, Transitional Housing, and a multi-lingual staff. We have offices in Dodge, Fillmore, and Olmsted Counties. Women's Shelter and Support Center continues to grow and adapt to the needs of our community while following our mission and vision for a domestic violence-free future.

A Brief History of the Women’s Shelter

1978    On October 1st the first shelter in Southeastern Minnesota opened. Known as the Marilyn Brodie House, it was a rented five bedroom home in southwest Rochester. Marilyn Brodie was a pioneer in the battered women’s movement and a member of the National Organization for Women NOW.

1979    With grants from the city of Rochester and the Bush, McKnight and Rochester Area Foundations, Women’s Shelter, Inc. purchased and renovated a seven bedroom house.

1984    Women’s Shelter, Inc. announced the beginning of the Intervention Project for Domestic Assault (IPDA). IPDA is designed to coordinate the criminal justice system agencies in Olmsted County, creating a consistent and sensitive response to domestic assault. IPDA does this through immediate victim contact, following the perpetrator from arrest through sentencing, aiding the prosecution and probation and also hosting quarterly meetings for all agencies responsible for enforcing domestic assault laws.

1984    Received grants to purchase and operate the first Transitional House (TH) for women leaving a battered women’s shelter. It is a spacious 11 bedroom, five bathroom rooming house. Renters pay for room and board based on their income and can stay for up to two years. The house is currently for single women.

1986    Purchased a four bedroom home next to the Main Shelter

1987    The two homes were connected providing office and storage space

1989    The State granted funds to Women’s Shelter, Inc. to begin providing local advocacy services in Dodge County. This program is still running strong and is designed to meet the unique needs of rural battered women.

1991    The State granted funds to Women’s Shelter, Inc. to provide local advocacy services in Wabasha County after they moved under the umbrella of Women’s Shelter, Inc. and staffs a full time advocate.

1993    the International Women’s Shelter (IWS) began. This home has four separate apartments or “living areas”. Immigrant residents with unique religious or dietary needs are easily accommodated.

1996    The Children’s House (CH) opened. Rochester School District and Women’s Shelter, Inc. joined to provide classes K-5 and also a place for children to spend their days in activities and games that promoted peaceful living. It was the first school in Minnesota in a shelter setting.

2010 With the advent of increased security at schools, the need for a separate school building became unnecessary. The Children’s House was transformed into a transitional house for mothers and children. Four families now live in the house for up to two years with a grant from the federal government

2015 Construction was completed connecting the International Shelter to the main shelter building via a hallway. Additional internal remodeling helped to streamline the flow of people into three areas – private emergency shelter area, a business area, and a public area. We also created a mini Women’s Resource Center for women in the community. This is the structure we have today.

2016 Women’s Shelter, Inc. purchased two buildings adjacent to the emergency shelter properties. This expansion allows for 5 permanent housing rentals that we rent within our mission.

2017  Women’s Shelter, Inc. receives state money to open a third shelter to house youth who are escaping sex trafficking, exploited, or are at risk of these. To accommodate this new program, the Transition House (TH) participants are moved into a scattered site model and the house is turned into the Safe Harbor Shelter.

2018   As a result of the Safe Harbor Shelter opening, Women’s Shelter, Inc. changed its name to Women’s Shelter and Support Center, broadened its mission, and created a new vision statement. We are also in the process of purchasing a four-plex to use as a new site for our transitional housing program.