By Ronelle Clark
Special to the Herald
We at the YWCA are concerned that – at a time when victims have suffered with domestic abuse, sexual assault or other violent crimes – their lives aren’t made more difficult at a time when they need help.
What is happening?
Government funding has been reduced – at both a federal and state level – for services to victims of crime. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is proposing a reorganization that will change the way domestic violence and sexual assault services are funded and delivered throughout the state of Iowa.
Simply put, the state is planning to create six regions. Funds will be distributed to each region. Service providers in each region – including the YWCA Domestic Violence / Sexual Assault Resource Center of Clinton and Jackson counties – are being asked to develop regional service plans based on a funding formula that will include four comprehensive service contracts for each region.
The service contracts include: Shelter-based services; domestic-abuse comprehensive services; sexual-abuse comprehensive services; and culturally specific services.
We are still uncertain as to how this will play out. Services will still be provided, but possibly at a reduced level. How much has funding declined? According to the Attorney General’s office, federal funding for Iowa’s crime victim assistance programs has declined by 18 percent – or nearly $1.5 million – over the past three fiscal years. State funding has dropped by seven percent – or nearly $214,000 – over the same time period.
Does this mean shelters will close and services will no longer be provided?
Some shelters have already closed around the state and some service providers have closed their doors.
The YWCA serves Clinton and Jackson counties and has been awarded a contract by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to provide services to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse through June 2013. Our advocates are certified through the Iowa Coalition against Domestic Violence and the Iowa Coalition of Sexual Abuse. All services are free and confidential. Our program will continue to serve these communities by providing shelter, court and medical advocacy, options counseling, transportation, prevention education, information and referral, and transitional housing.
The YWCA is the only certified victim service provider in these two counties. These vital services have been a part of the YWCA of Clinton mission since 1978.
The YWCA of Clinton and the board of directors are strongly committed to considering all options, funding sources, and opportunities for fiscal year 2013-2014. We are actively listening to our Coalitions against Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Response Teams, community members, clientele base, and other service providers in the bi-county area to best meet the needs of our communities. We’re working with organizations throughout a 14-county area called the Southeast region, stretching from Clinton down to Keokuk and west to Iowa City. This also includes the Quad-Cities, Muscatine and Burlington.
The Attorney General says there has been a drop in the use of shelters around the state.
We, at the YWCA, feel this statement is misleading. While we agree we have been able to serve less people in our shelters, it is not because our clientele do not want to access this option; it is because our shelter is at capacity and has no room.
Because of the economy, some of the women who come to the shelter stay longer as advocates help them search for jobs so they can be independent. We help place them in jobs and coordinate community services so they can live independently. Perhaps this is why it appears that fewer women are being served in shelters around the state – but we have not seen a decline in demand.
Miller says we have to come up with new ways of delivering better and more cost-effective services for our state’s crime victims.
Those of us who are providing these services work every day to ensure that our services are cost-effective. Funding has decreased in recent years while demand has increased. Nonprofits across the state are stretching to make ends meet. Our staff is extremely dedicated to the individuals and families we serve. Additionally, you will see advocates involved in all aspects of our communities from coalition building, prevention education in our schools, and developing response teams to coordinate better service delivery. Our agency will continue to listen to our community and stakeholders. Over the next few months our Board of Directors will be making decisions regarding the impact of regionalization. We are fully funded, our shelter is open, and our program continues to serve the Clinton and Jackson community through June 2013.
For more information contact me at 242-2118 or at email@example.com.
Ronelle Clark is the YWCA Crisis Services Director.