Last year nearly half the domestic violence survivors sheltered by Crossroads Crisis Center sought help between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. or on weekends. That’s why having enough overnight and weekend staff is critically important.
But cutting staff is one of the ways I must consider responding to a nearly 36% cut to my most important funding source, the Victims of Crime Act grant. The loss in revenue has already affected our ability to provide transportation assistance. If a survivor needs a bus ticket to flee for safety or to get to work job, Crossroads Crisis Center doesn’t have the financial means to support them as we did in the past.
Our domestic violence shelter was one of dozens of domestic violence programs in Ohio that suffered cuts to their VOCA grants this year. Administered by the Ohio Attorney General, VOCA is the most crucial funding source for most domestic violence programs, enabling them to provide shelter and other vital services.
The state’s VOCA allocation was cut by $20 million; funding to domestic violence programs was cut by $7.7 million. The VOCA cuts are the result of declining deposits into VOCA’s non-taxpayer funding source, the Crime Victims Fund, which is funded by criminal fines from federal prosecutions.
The VOCA cut, on the heels of the pandemic which has put domestic violence survivors in further jeopardy and increased the need for services, is one more reason state legislators must increase funding for state domestic violence services. Last year, for the first time the General Assembly included $1 million in the state budget to fund shelter operations. Next year we need legislators to increase that funding to at least $5 million.
Crossroads Crisis Center Crossroads received $12,000 from that state funding this year. We greatly appreciated the funding, which helped offset the more than $118,000 VOCA cut. But it is just not enough support for a program that last year helped 752 women, five men and 377 children go to court, find housing, get counseling, apply for public benefits and take other steps to help them live violence-free lives.
Sadly, we turned away 64 survivors who needed shelter because we were full.
Ohio is an outlier among other states in our region, most of which provide significantly more funding for domestic violence services on a per capita basis. Increasing state support to $5 million would bring Ohio closer in line with other states in the region.
Even prior to the pandemic, the needs of Ohio families living with domestic violence far outpaced resources. In the last year in Ohio, 75 domestic violence shelter and community-based programs served more than 82,000 clients, including 12,282 children. More than 9,000 of those victims and children were provided safe shelter.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s programs turned away 263 victims in a single day in 2019 because they lacked room to serve them, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s 24-hour census survey, which included responses from all of Ohio’s residential programs.
Ohio’s domestic violence programs and the victims they serve need and deserve a more generous, stable funding source.
Please call, text or email your state legislator and ask him or her to increase funding for domestic violence programs. Use these links to find your representative (ohiohouse.gov) or senator (ohiosenate.gov).
Christel Keller is the executive director of Crossroads Crisis Center, which serves Lima and Allen County.