Desperate, but turned away from Missouri shelters

Domestic violence is a reality in Missouri and Gov. Nixon said in his State of the State that although the state’s network of shelters provides a safe haven for thousands of women and children, many are turned away because shelters are full.

“We know that battered women are at greatest risk when they make the courageous decision to leave an abusive partner,” Nixon said in his address. “Finding shelter can literally make the difference between life and death for these women and for their children.”

According to the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV), nearly 19,000 women and children were turned away from Missouri shelters in 2011 and 25,000 requests for domestic violence services were unmet.

Nixon’s 2014 budget includes nearly $2 million for domestic violence shelters to expand transitional housing and enhance residential and support services across the state.

Jefferson City’s Rape and Abuse Crisis Services, RACS, is the only domestic violence shelter in Jefferson City and the shelter’s Executive Director Jim Clardy, said turning women and children away has been a reality.

In 2012, the shelter turned away 16 women and 13 children. In 2011, the numbers were even larger, 28 women and 50 children.

Clardy said the agency is a 36-bed shelter with a capacity of nearly 40, with baby beds.

“Because we get a lot of requests for women with 2-3 kids, we can’t always take them in,” Clardy said. “Normally, we refer to other shelters if we’re full.”

He said since 1999, shelter bednights have increased every year. Bednights are one overnight stay for one person. So, a woman and two kids who stay one night, make 3 bednights.

He said even though bednights have increased, funding has decreased. In 2006, Department of Social Services funding for RACS was $134,592. That number has steadily decreased every year, with funding for 2013 at $102,735.

According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, funding is allocated to domestic violence shelters through a competitive bid process.

The department will work with MCADSV to determine the needs of domestic violence shelters and with the Office of Administration on distribution of the funds. The Department of Public Safety also provides funding to domestic violence shelters.

Clardy said with the decrease in funding in recent years, RACS has turned to a fundraiser and other funding avenues to make up the difference. He said additional funding from Nixon’s budget would help the agency.

Nixon said he wants the increased funding to leave no mother or child behind.

“No child—no mother— who has been the victim of domestic violence should ever be turned away and left to fend for themselves during these moments of crisis,” he said.

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