When Angela Ellis fled from an abusive relationship last July, the Akron woman and her eight children stayed at the Battered Women’s Shelter for a month and a half.

The shelter then helped her family find an Akron house to move into, paid for their rent and utilities, and provided them with other services while they continued to get back on their feet.

“I don’t know how I would have made it through if it wasn’t for the program and resources,” Ellis, 29, said Friday.

The help Ellis received after leaving the shelter will now be provided to abuse victims in Ohio and across the country.

Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced this funding expansion Friday during a news conference at the Battered Women’s Shelter in Akron, which he pointed to as a model program.

Carson announced $202 million that HUD is providing across the country to help homeless programs, which includes nearly $50 million targeted to people who are without housing because of domestic abuse.

The Battered Women’s Shelter has gotten funding from HUD to cover rent and other living expenses for domestic violence victims after they leave shelters for the past decade. HUD has now approved $1.7 million to be distributed to other Ohio cities for this purpose.

During Carson’s visit, he met with local elected officials, toured the shelter and talked to residents and staff. The local officials included Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, state Sen. Kristina Roegner, Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof and Ohio Rep. Bill Roemer.

Terri Heckman, CEO of the Battered Women’s Shelter, led the tour with Carson, popping into several residents' rooms and asking if they wanted to say hello. Felicia Cook introduced Carson to her daughter, Bella Irby, who was born on Christmas Eve after she went into labor at the shelter.

“She came home to a safe environment with too many moms wanting to help,” Heckman said, laughing.

“This is a good place,” Cook said.

“I love babies!” Carson said, admiring the tiny Bella.

Heckman told Carson about the history of the shelter, which moved into its present location on East Market Street in a former nursing home in February 2017.

Heckman pointed out some unusual features in the shelter, including a beauty salon for the residents.

“You see them start feeling better about themselves,” she said.

Heckman also highlighted a clothing bank, full of donated items, where residents who may have come to the shelter with nothing but the clothes they are wearing can shop for items for themselves and their children.

Carson complimented the shelter during his news conference, saying it’s a great example of what can be done with federal, state and local resources.

“This could not have happened without a lot of cooperation,” he said. “That goes to show what can happen when we lay aside our differences.”

Carson said HUD has provided $2 billion to homeless programs this year, a record investment in state and local efforts to reduce homelessness.

Asked about whether HUD is preparing in case of another federal shutdown, which could impact agencies like the Battered Women’s Shelter that heavily rely on federal funds, Carson said, “We have contingency plans in case we have a problem.”

The Battered Women’s Shelter was among the Akron-area nonprofits affected by the recent government shutdown. The shelter had taken steps, such as not buying supplies, and was considering more drastic steps, like furloughing staff, when the shutdown ended.

Among the federal funds Akron receives each year is about $314,000 that goes toward assisting people like Ellis who leave the shelter but still need help with living expenses. The shelter currently has 24 people who are benefiting from the program, which pays for rent, utilities, child care, schooling and transportation costs, and provides other social services.

Heckman and her staff will oversee the distribution of the $1.7 million that will now be awarded to shelters in other Ohio cities. She said the funding should be disbursed within four months.

Ellis, who attended the news conference and was among several shelter residents who stood behind Carson as he spoke, said she is glad the program is being expanded to more people. She said she is studying to be a medical technician at Remington College in Cleveland — expecting to graduate in August — and credits her success to the extra help she’s received.

Ellis said domestic abuse victims need to feel secure and have a “place to call home.”

“I’m happy — finally — you see those kind of things happening,” she said.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.