Powerless | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

News » Cover Story

Powerless

While state funds for domestic violence dwindle, the cost in lives climbs

by

2 comments

Page 2 of 3

MONEY FOR SOME

While there are preventative measures like the lethality assessment, the upcoming legislative session is a reminder that shelters will have to line up along with everyone else to seek funds from the Social Services Appropriation subcommittee.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is a relative newcomer to the subcommittee, at just three years on the Hill. But, come the 2015 legislative session, Weiler and the 16 other members of the subcommittee will have to perform Solomon-like acts of judgment, as they are faced by "a barrage of requests from across the spectrum," he says.

He's visited the Davis County shelter, Safe Harbor. "I know they feel like they are in desperate need of additional funding," he says. But he also cites mothers with autistic children as a group that has got his attention, and compares the committee to being on a lifeboat with six children and having only one life vest.

"You have to decide which child you're going to save," he says.

Utah's 13 nonprofit domestic-violence shelters split just over $1 million annually from DCFS and $1 million in federal grants administered by the state, along with an additional $800,000-plus in federal funding. Beyond that, they rely on whatever ongoing and one-time monies they can beg from the Social Services Appropriation subcommittee.

Download DV Shelters State Federal Income

In January 2014, they got $300,000 in ongoing funding and $393,500 in one-time funding, split 13 ways. And advocates say it's not enough for the shelters, which are facing rapidly increasing demand.

Over the past five years, Utah's shelters increased by 40 percent the total annual number of nights of shelter they provided, but that was still outstripped by unmet need, which climbed 67 percent.

And while demand for services has increased, DCFS, charged with protecting the welfare of children and families, has cut back its front-line involvement in providing domestic-violence services.

DCFS typically becomes involved in domestic-violence through allegations of domestic-violence-related child abuse [DVRCA] made to Child Protective Services. Several years ago, in the face of legislative concerns over families' civil rights being trodden on, the criteria for triggering those investigations were tightened.

This led to a substantial reduction in the number of DCFS domestic-violence case investigations, from 2,876 in 2011 to 1,982 in 2013, according to a City Weekly records request.

dvchildabuseinvestigations.jpg

State funding for domestic-violence services has also declined. A record request to DCFS revealed that its domestic-violence budget went from $3.53 million in 2011 to $2.21 million in 2014.

What that has meant for shelters is greater pressure on their resources. In 2012, Mayo wrote in a recent grant application, DCFS cut regional domestic-violence positions, pushing up the number of referrals to the shelter and putting further strain on her already overburdened staff.

The number of DCFS domestic-violence positions has gone from 56 in 2011 to 29 in 2014, through a mix of attrition and reassignments, according to a City Weekly records request to DCFS.

Download DCFS Stats for specialists positions.

And domestic-violence workers in DCFS' southwest Utah region, where New Horizons is located, had their job duties expanded, adding a focus on kinship placement and foster care to their domestic violence priorities.

"They're still on the domestic-violence budget, but they're not doing domestic violence specifically," says Jenn Oxborrow, who has been administrator of domestic-violence services at the Utah Division of Child & Family Services for 18 months. "The way we are using our funding and programming is inefficient and ineffective."

DCFS director Brent Platt says he has to manage a $167 million budget, so the domestic-violence budget doesn't necessarily register on his radar. DCFS records show that the reduction in domestic-violence specialists employed by DCFS across the state is the main cause for the decline.

But DCFS' budget, despite the tightening, does carry a surplus. In 2011, that surplus was $735,207; in 2014, it was $455,323, part of it reflecting budgeted monies not spent on treatment providers, part of it budgeted funds not spent on specialist state DV workers.

Mayo looks over the figures and winces. The surpluses are a potential lifeline she can't understand not being made available to shelters. "I could do a lot with that surplus," she says.

Download DCFS DV Services Budget 2011-14

She refers to the nondescript New Horizons shelter, a former nursing home, as the "bat cave." The electronic front gate that bars access to the hostel is permanently broken, she says. Shelter workers have to wheel it shut by hand.

In the front lobby, two boys energetically chase each other with NERF guns, while a girl kicks a soccer ball along a corridor. One employee recently jazzed up the communal bathroom and showers with splashes of bright pink, and affixed decals to the wall—high heeled shoes, a big lipstick, a purse—along with signs that say, "Dry those tears," "Put on your lipstick," and "Everything will be OK."

After Christmas, workers found several dozen garbage bags of clothes for the shelter. But donations, Mayo says, are never a problem. It's money she needs. It costs $25,000 annually to maintain the shelter. There's no yardmen, housekeeping or maids, she notes. The all-female staff do what they can, she says. "A hole in the wall, we fix it—a bunch of chicks and YouTube."

NO MORE ROOM AT THE INN

When Gloria Arredondo looked into the mirror, she saw a monster, “but it was him, it was his reflection.” - NIKI CHAN
  • NIKI CHAN
  • When Gloria Arredondo looked into the mirror, she saw a monster, “but it was him, it was his reflection.”

Gloria Arredondo is a domestic-violence survivor whose ex-husband, over a period of 14 years, "took away the individual part of me," she says. "I became a mother and wife; there was nothing left of me."

Arredondo, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says even her testimony was fair game for her former partner. "My testimonies were too long, too dramatic. Everything about me started to bother him."

When she looked into the mirror, she saw a monster, she says. "But it was him; it was his reflection."

She broke away from his psychological abuse and now lives in her parents' basement with her children, writing erotic poetry and books on how to survive domestic-violence and working with women trying to leave abusers.

Arredondo says the women she works with, many of whom are Latina, encounter numerous barriers to accessing service. These include a lack of access to bank accounts or independent sources of income; religious issues (Mormon women "have this concept of eternal marriage which sometimes stops people from leaving," she says); language—shelters often don't have full-time Spanish speakers—no driver's license or other identification; and for some, a sense of being "inhuman, because they are illegal," she says. "There's a giant fear of being deported." She says she's known women who "have tried to jump off the roof, taken pills, cut themselves," because they can't find another way to leave their abuser.

One morning, Arredondo says, she took a woman to the YWCA after the woman called her saying she would kill herself rather than stay with her abusive spouse. The Y was full, so they called three other shelters. They were full, too. Finally, one said they could take her, but only for a day.

"What do you do in a day?" Arredondo asks. "If you've escaped, you've already made him mad." She took the woman to her home, fed her, then was told by a shelter to drop her off at a different location.

The next day, when Arredondo went to pick her up for an appointment with a lawyer, she found that the woman had used the money Arredondo had given her for breakfast to get a taxi home.

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment
 

Add a comment