CLEVELAND — The impacts of the partial government shutdown could soon hurt people trying to escape domestic and sexual violence, according to people who work closely with victims seeking help at two Cleveland non-profits.
“What we’re going to see if a lot of people who really rely on government services for critical safety services to support themselves and their families are going to be in jeopardy,” said Melissa Graves, the CEO of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center (DVCAC).
Graves says DVCAC receives $2 million annually in federal grants; that’s 70% of the the organization’s budget. She says the money is used to work with 20,000 women, children and men every year. As of now, the organization’s federal funding is secured through February according to Graves.
“This is unprecedented, so having to even think about the possibility of closing intake at the shelter or to any degree curtailing our services or having to furlough staff, frankly is something I’ve never had to think about as a non-profit CEO,” said Graves.
Sondra Miller, the President and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said she is also closely monitoring the impact of a prolonged shutdown.
“We use federal funding to answer calls on our 24 hour Rape Crisis Hotline, to provide counseling and victim advocacy and especially to fund our prevention programs where we hope to prevent sexual assault from happening in the first place,” said Miller.
She said about 75 cents of every dollar received comes from the federal government. While the center is not facing an immediate funding emergency, a potential months long shutdown would begin to cause problems.
“It’s a shame we have to use some of our energy and attention to think about what happens if the government shutdown continues for months,” said Miller. “Our energy really needs to be on how do we provide the best services for the people who are walking through our door.”
According to Graves, families they often serve need affordable housing vouchers to take a major step in gaining independence from their abuser and moving out of their shelter. Everyday the government shutdown lingers could soon put the safety of many of the people they serve at risk.
“If they can’t leave our shelter, then that means we don’t have room for someone else to come into the shelter and it means someone who is in a really dangerous domestic violence situation may not have a place to go,” said Graves.
Graves encourages anyone concerned and willing to help to call their representative.
“We need government to reopen to be serving the most vulnerable people in our communities,” she said.