The Willmar Shelter House program began in 1978 as a volunteer network of privately owned safe houses, providing up to 48 hours of sheltered support for abused women and their children.
The program acquired an older home near downtown. Remodeling costs were paid with a federal grant and furnishings were donated.
Shelter House's service area grew, opening outreach offices in Benson and Olivia to provide advocacy to families in Renville and Swift counties.
A separate program to respond to criminal cases of domestic violence and to support crime victims was opened in Willmar for Kandiyohi County residents.
With assistance from Kandiyohi County Social services, Shelter House opened Harmony Visitation Center in 1996 to provide safe parenting time visits and exchanges.
Woodland Centers served as the parent agency for Shelter House until Shelter House became a non-profit corporation of its own in July 1999. Shelter House changed locations and moved into a facility owned by Woodland Centers.
In 2001, an additional outreach office was opened in Montevideo to serve residents in Chippewa and Lac qui Parle counties.
That same year, an ad hoc committee was formed to look at programs and the needs of residents. The committee concluded Shelter House needed a new building.
Following a capital campaign from 2001 to 2004, construction of the new shelter began in October 2004. The building was dedicated on May 15, 2005.