Domestic Abuse Shelter Cuts

July 30, 2009 10:26:43 PM PDT
California's recently adopted budget has dealt a severe blow to the state's victims of domestic violence. Governor Schwarzenegger cut 20-point-4 million dollars to 94 shelters and centers statewide. As a result, many centers will have to make drastic cuts to their programs. Some will have to close their shelters altogether. "Melissa" -- not her real name -- came to Fresno from Southern California in June. She and her two young children boarded a bus with no plan except to get away from a violent man. Says "Melissa", "I moved into a motel ... and he found me ... wherever I would go, he would find me."

For now "Melissa" and her children are safe at Fresno's Marjaree Mason Center. "Melissa" says everything she and her children need is taken care of.

As soon as next month, the Marjaree Mason Center may not have enough beds for people like "Melissa." Half of the emergency shelter's budget has been slashed. Approximately 100 women and children pack the shelter right now. Executive Director, Pam Kallsen, says the center has enough funds to get through the next month ... after that they may have to cut staff and close down rooms.

Kallsen said, "We turned away 120 women and children last year because we were full, so I can't even imagine what the impact is going to be if we have to shut beds down."

The cuts come at the same time communities are seeing an increase in cases of domestic violence. In the city of Fresno the police department has seen a 30 percent increase just in the last four months.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says a recession coupled with increased drug and alcohol use has escalated the violence. Limited space at shelters could make things worse.

Dyer said, "What that means is these victims are going to have to remain in the home ... be re-victimized and be subjected to more serious injury and in some cases even killed."

Fresno's Marjaree Mason Center is frantically seeking out other funding sources ... even help from the public. Mountain Crisis Services in Merced is planning to close two of its three emergency shelters. Madera plans to close its shelter altogether.

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