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Domestic Abuse Shelters Search for Funding

DES MOINES, IA (AP) — Domestic abuse shelters throughout Iowa are looking for new sources of money to keep operating after losing government funding they rely on.

The state attorney general’s office notified 12 shelters last week that they no longer will receive government funding as part of an effort to more effectively spend the dwindling money that is available. The money instead will be focused on eight larger shelters, which will reach out more effectively to victims by traveling to their communities and helping them resolve legal, housing and counseling issues.

Janelle Melohn, director of crime victim assistance in the attorney general’s office, said the changes are needed to more help victims at a time when federal funding that is passed through the state government has repeatedly dropped. This year, the office has split the state into six regions and grouped grants into three types so each region will have at least one shelter, one domestic abuse service and one sexual assault service provider.

The funding begins July 1.

For shelters, the change has left them scrambling to line up new funding sources or close.

At the Dubuque Community Y Domestic Violence Program, director Charla Bulko said the organization will try to raise $95,000 in the community to keep its shelter open.

“We’re going to find a way to do this without (the grant), because closing our shelter is not an adequate service to victims,” Bulko said.

Bulko said her group didn’t apply for a grant because it knew the state was focused on larger programs, but she argued that without the Dubuque organization domestic assaults could increase and even lead to homicides.

At the Family Crisis Support Network in Atlantic, director Wendy Richter said the group was denied a grant and won’t have money to offer shelter or services to 450 to 600 victims they help annually from six counties in southwest Iowa.

People will now need to seek help from a shelter in Council Bluffs, which will oversee a 19-county region.

Richter said her organization owns its building and is considering remaining open by relying on volunteers.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “I think we’re just trying to figure out what we’re going to do now.”

The Ottumwa Crisis Center and Women’s Shelter also lost its government funding, leaving executive director Cheryl Brown unsure what to do. The shelter serves about 250 victims a year and has been so full recently that some people have slept on cots.

“It was a surprise,” Brown said. “We’ll make every arrangement we can but we’re not going to put anybody out on the street.”

Besides Dubuque, Atlantic and Ottumwa, shelters losing funding are in Ames, Burlington, Clinton, Keokuk, Marshalltown, Mason City, Muscatine Sioux Center and Spencer.

The shelters receiving funding are in Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Oskaloosa, Sioux City and Waverly.

Although they didn’t get funding, the shelters in Burlington and Muscatine are expected to remain open thanks to funding from other shelters that have received state and federal grants.

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