Our History

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 for support. 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 furnishings.

The doors were opened in December of 1977.  This historical event marked the formation of the first free standing emergency shelter for battered women in the State of Michigan.

In the initial stages, Underground Railroad operated as a totally voluntary organization.  During the first two years of operation 750 women and 1300 children were housed in emergency shelter.  In the fall of 1978, the Board of Directors and staff of the Underground Railroad were instrumental in the founding of the Michigan Coalition To End Domestic and Sexual Violence, an organization that represents 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 note 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
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 the Underground Railroad Resale Store
2010 – Developed a collaborative relationship with Girls on the Run Saginaw Bay
2012 – Established the Mid-Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force in collaboration with the MI Human Trafficking Task Force
2014 – Opened Pet Shelter within the Emergency Shelter