Local women's shelter devastated by budget cuts

Monday, January 7, 2013 - 10:00pm

The state government has said that women's shelters across the state are getting a big cut to their budgets, which could mean fewer services for victims who need it.

The Baton Rouge Shelter serves seven parishes, and the director said the cuts are devastating.

The budget changes mean that the shelter would lose six of the 22 beds they have.

The center has been full every night for the past two years, but now, because of close to $100,000 in funding cuts, women looking for help at the Capital Area Family Violence Intervention Center might not be able to have that safe environment.

"It was just a huge blow to our program," stated Audrey Wascome, interim director of the shelter. “When we found out the cuts were happening, the staff have had a lot of sleepless nights."

The cost savings are in response to more than $150 million dollars in cuts across the state. Education and health care have already been cut in a big way, but now, the state is heading to places which normally don't see the cuts, like the shelter.

"We all know that the budget has to be cut - we all do - but these are the most vulnerable people in our society and its' our responsibility to help them."

Wascome said her shelter, just like others across the state, have security measures in place that can keep women safe. She said it's not something that can happen at a family member's home or a hotel. Now, she's concerned many women might not get the help they desperately need.

"Our concern is that someone is going to need us, and we won’t be able to get them to a safe place in time. Devestating results can happen.”

The money to the shelter comes from the Department of Children and Family Services. In a statement to NBC33 News, they told us in part:

“DCFS continues to work with domestic violence providers in moving away from costly residential care - where stays are limited to 45 days - and instead toward evidence based, national best practices that are more productive, cost less and provide family and community supports resulting in longer-term solutions.

DCFS has more than $5.3 million budgeted after the reductions for domestic violence services around the state, with providers having invoiced $1.8 million of that amount half way through the fiscal year."

The shelter here in Baton Rouge is the largest in the state and serves about 5,000 women a year. That's a number Wascome said will certainly go down.

 

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