I had something hilarious and absurd planned for this issue’s Opening Remarks, but then I got an email from Shelter House Executive Director Rosalyn Wik.
In case you thought the government shutdown didn’t affect folks in Beachcomberland, think again. Shelter House, the state-certified victim services program serving Okaloosa and Walton counties, is already being affected by our Reality-TV-Star-in-Chief’s temper tantrum, which started December 22, 2018.
Democrats, you’re not off the hook, either. There’s this thing they taught me in Political Science 101 called “compromise.”
Anyway, Ms. Wik writes: “The provision of lifesaving services for domestic violence survivors and their children depends on a combination of private, state and federal funding, and the continuation of these critical services has been compromised due to the current government shutdown.
“Contracts for Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, a source that provides nearly 40 percent of funding for victim services at Shelter House, are reimbursable and the agencies receiving these funds front the money to provide services and are then reimbursed by the Office of the Attorney General. Prior to the shutdown, these funds were already slow to be recouped, and Shelter House had not been reimbursed since October for funds expended for victims services.
“What people may not realize is this truly is a matter of life and death. So many of the survivors coming through our doors are in imminent danger and come to us with nothing. If we are forced to keep cutting back on services, victims will have nowhere to go.
“In an effort to keep the center’s most critical services operating, Shelter House has responded by operating with minimum staffing patterns, suspending all supply purchases and monetary participant assistance and cutting back on contracted services such as licensed mental health therapy for adult survivors.
“Survivors reaching out for help may find themselves facing long wait lists for services or be redirected out of the county due to a lack of resources during this period of time. If the availability of federal funding is not quickly restored, in a matter of weeks the agency may have to consider program office closures, additional staffing reductions or liquidating assets just to maintain its most critical core services.
“Shelter House’s emergency shelter program for domestic violence survivors and their children was at 90 percent of its normal operating capacity when news came that outstanding federal grant reimbursements would be halted. Since July 1, 2018, the agency has already served 80 adults and 59 children in the emergency shelter, 272 domestic violence and sexual assault survivors at their outreach program offices, responded to 55 sexual assault victims at local area hospitals, and answered 628 hotline calls.
“Shelter House is not unique in this predicament, as a recent press release by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicates that over half of the state’s 42 certified domestic violence centers will face reduction in their level of services to survivors by month two of the federal shutdown. A recent press release by the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence states many of the state’s 31 certified sexual assault programs are already facing layoffs, cutback, and some may be forced to close their doors.
“In the wake of Hurricane Michael, Florida will face uncommon fiscal challenges that will diminish the state’s ability to compensate for any loss of federal funding.
“In addition to the cash flow crisis the shutdown has caused, the humanitarian impact is substantial. Even when the shutdown ends and funding is restored, it will not erase the violence suffered by those who were unable to receive services in the interim. There were 180 domestic violence homicides in Florida in fiscal year 2017-18.
“This number is staggering and would be much higher without the vital services provided through domestic violence centers. If centers cannot access the funding they need to continue, they will be unable to provide shelter services, safety planning, legal assistance to obtain injunctions for protection, and other critical lifesaving services. Every person deserves to live free of abuse, but for many the opportunity and ability to escape violence and find security is a matter of life or death.
“Shelter House has started a fundraising campaign to keep critical services available to survivors in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Community members and supporters can contribute by visiting this donation link on the Shelter House website.”
You can also contact the main program office at 850-243-1201. Meantime, I encourage all Beachcomber readers to send a copy of this article to each and every one of our so-called representatives. I will personally reimburse you on postage.
Love, Editor Manson
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