Council considers YWCA loan



The YWCA is asking the Missoula City Council to help with a significant expansion of its Secret Seconds thrift store on West Broadway.

"Most community members do not realize how important Secret Seconds is to the YWCA's programs," says YWCA Executive Director Cindy Weese.

The Missoula YWCA provides emergency shelter for domestic and sexual violence survivors and transitional housing for homeless women and children. More than a third of the nonprofit's $1.8 million budget last year came from Secret Seconds sales.

The YWCA hopes to add 5,800 square feet onto its existing store. Half of that would be retail space, with the remainder used for processing donations. "We won't have to turn away donations as often as we do now," Weese says. "We can get things processed and on the racks a lot quicker."

The YWCA is asking council to issue $920,400 in tax-exempt bonds to fund the project and to help refinance existing debt. The Internal Revenue Service allows municipalities to issue up to $10 million annually in such bonds for nonprofit family services. Because they aren't taxed, the YWCA will get a significantly lower interest rate than it would otherwise. Banks buy the bonds and the city assumes no liability. "It's an incentive to keep commerce flowing," says City Finance Director Brentt Ramharter.

The YWCA first planned to build a new domestic violence shelter on the lot now slated for expansion. But because the Poverello Center homeless shelter is now slated for construction across the street, the YWCA will build its new shelter elsewhere.

"We oftentimes have women staying in our shelter escaping abusive partners who are living at the Poverello," Weese explains.

When the YWCA approached Missoula Mayor John Engen about facilitating the loan, Engen was sensitive to issues that could arise between the two shelters, Weese says. She adds: "We certainly didn't use that as a bargaining chip."

Revenue generated from a larger and more profitable Secret Seconds and from refinancing old debt will help fund construction of a new domestic violence shelter at another undecided location, Weese says.

Weese aims to work with the Pov to help make further improvements, such as landscaping, to the blighted Broadway and Cedar Street stretch. "I think it's going to be two very nice improvements to this neighborhood," she says.

Council will hold a public hearing on the bond sale on Nov. 19.

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