HISTORY OF UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
In 1976, an attorney from Legal Services of Eastern Michigan, Barbara Klimaszewski, identified a need for emergency shelter for battered women and their children. At that time, there were no specific statutes in the State of Michigan pertaining to spouse abuse, which left the victims of domestic violence without protection and little recourse for any legal intervention. The solution to that problem became readily apparent in that the only means of protection for these women and their children was to flee their residence and seek temporary shelter.
A group of women from the Saginaw area formed a group called Feminists United for Social Equality, and proceeded to establish the Underground Railroad, a private non-profit corporation, “to provide and operate a shelter for battered women and their children.” Various community groups were contacted, and the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church assumed the mission of providing the original shelter building at 528 South Warren Street, and $15,000 for renovations and furnishing. The doors were opened in December of 1977. This historical event marked the formation of the first free standing emergencyshelter for battered women in the State of Michigan. In the initial stages, it was operated as a totally voluntary organization. During the first two years of operation the Underground Railroad housed 750 women and 1300 children. Also, in the fall of 1978, the Board of Directors and staff of the Underground Railroad were instrumental in the founding of the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an organization that represents domestic violence programs on a statewide basis.
The organization relies upon private donations, and city, county, state and federal funding sources. In 1985 the organization was accepted as a Saginaw County United Way Agency.
In the 1990’s the organization experienced significant growth of new programs resulting from the increasing levels of funding provided at the federal level.
The following notes the addition of these services:
1989 Sexual Assault Services
1994 Housing Assistance
1995 Personnel Protection Order Advocacy
1996 Court Advocacy Services
1997 Underserved Population Advocacy Formation of coordinating response team-DART
1998 On-Call Program
1999 Transitional Housing
2000 Civil Legal Assistance Walk-In Medical Clinic
2002 Opening of Transitional Housing Apartments
2005 SafePlace Supervised Visitation and Exchange
2007 Permanent Supportive Housing
2008 Opening of Under the Rainbow