Thursday, August 13, 2009

Schwarzenegger Eliminates Funding for Domestic Violence Shelters

As part of the budget, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line item veto power to eliminate state funding for all domestic violence shelters in California. The cuts could lead to the closure of some shelters, particularly in rural areas. Where the shelter is operated by an organization with other funding sources, the shelter will likely remain open for the next year, but with reduced staffing and programs. Some shelters may be reduced to offering only emergency services.

In Alameda County, five shelters lost their funding, including a hit of $200,000 for San Leandro's shelter operated by Building Futures with Women and Children. As reported in the San Leandro Times,

Building Futures Executive Director Liz Varela said that the budget cuts will mean that the shelter won’t be able to take in as many people and that Building Futures may have to lay off employees. Building Future’s “Sister Me Home” shelter houses over 200 women and children each year and the state cuts will take $208,000 from the shelter’s $380,000 annual operation budget. The organization has a total annual budget of $2 million, including counseling and career services for 800 clients.

Varela said that shelters like “Sister Me Home” are often the only thing coming between victims and their abusers, and the state funding is vital, perhaps even life-saving. “Basically, over half of our funding is gone,” said Varela. “ And what is so devastating is that this particular money goes to the core of what we do: the safehouse for battered women. Cuts to that make everything else we do more fragile.”

Varela said that Building Futures will have to make across-the-board cuts to staff and programs. Most of the money was to have come from the state on July 1, the start of the fi scal year, and was delayed when the state budget was delayed. Now, it is not coming at all.

Peggy Combs, the Development & Operations Director of BFWC, also sent an email message to supporters of the organization that I've copied below:

Dear Friends and Supporters of Building Futures:

Because we know you are a strong supporter of Building Futures with Women and Children and you have a deep interest in our domestic violence programs, including our safe house shelter, we wanted you to know about the crushing budget cut we received last week when the Governor used his line item veto to wipe out completely the State’s funding for all 94 domestic violence shelters across the state.

As you will see in the attached press release from Building Futures, this means a cut of $208,000 this fiscal year for our safe house – our single largest funding contract for the entire agency. This funding was central to our safe house shelter budget, which overall is about $380,000 per year. Although this cut is about 10% of the agency’s budget for operating five sites and multiple programs, it is over half the budget for the safe house shelter.

Since this shelter is for women and children in immediate danger from their abusers, we do not have options like closing the shelter during the day or operating the shelter without 24-hour staffing. Instead, Building Futures plans to maintain our core shelter program by cutting back on some of the support services that are helping women to make positive transitions to lives and relationships without violence. Domestic violence support groups and other community-based programs will be curtailed in order to realign staff and funding resources with core support for clients in the safe house.

A second press release is attached that is being distributed by a coalition of all five domestic violence agencies in Alameda County , including Building Futures, which addresses our major concerns about the $1,000,000 loss this budget cut imposes on the five domestic violence shelters in this County.

Today there is an article in the SF Chronicle about the State’s cuts to domestic violence shelters across the state, and about what one legislator from San Francisco is proposing in new legislation that would provide some replacement funding for all the hard-hit shelters; here is the link to the article:

If you have any questions or comments, please contact our Executive Director, Liz Varela , or me.

Meanwhile, please know how much all of us at Building Futures appreciate the many ways you and our “community of supporters” make our work possible with underserved women and children in crisis.


Peggy Hynd Combs
Development & Operations Director
Building Futures with Women & Children
1395 Bancroft Avenue, San Leandro , CA 94577
(510) 357-0205 x106 * FAX (510) 357-0688

Serving women and children in crisis to build futures free from homelessness and family violence.

Click here for a story on the impact of the funding cut for the domestic violence shelter for Contra Costa County.

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