Aerial view of Ketchikan (KRBD file photo).

Ketchikan’s borough has been awarded $846,949 in federal funding to convert a former domestic violence shelter into an office and meeting space for the advocacy group Women in Safe Homes, or WISH.

The Community Development Block Grant will pay for a wide range of renovations to WISH’s building on First Avenue. WISH plans to take out an interior wall to create a large, open space for group classes. The building’s electrical systems, bathrooms, and windows will be renovated. The roof will also be replaced with federal funds.

WISH Executive Director Agnes Moran says the renovations are meant to provide space for the organization’s growing community services department. She says in the last few years, WISH has greatly expanded its offerings to include family services like parenting classes and counseling, plus  a new housing assistance program. They’re also planning to open a new child advocacy center.”

“We’ve brought on all these programs in the last couple of years, and we just needed a place to house them,” Moran said by phone Monday.

Moran says even with the renovations, the former shelter would still be able to take in clients if necessary.

“We’re not doing anything that removes the capability of utilizing the facility as a shelter if we need to revert to that at some time in the future,” she said.

WISH says the renovations will allow for social distancing and increased ventilation, reducing the potential spread of the coronavirus. The grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is part of a $5 billion federal program funded by the CARES Act aimed at making communities more resilient in the face of the pandemic.

Ketchikan’s borough applied for the grant in April. The facility served as WISH’s primary shelter for survivors of domestic violence until last year, when it relocated to the former Ketchikan Regional Youth Facility. Renovations for that new shelter were also partially paid for by a Community Development Block Grant.