Cass County Family Crisis Support Center to stay open despite funding cuts


May 16th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Small domestic abuse shelters throughout Iowa are scrambling to remain open amid changes by state officials that will mean a loss of funding. The state attorney general’s office last week notified 12 shelters…including the Family Crisis Support Network in Atlantic, which serves six counties in the area…that they no longer will receive state money. It’s part of an effort to more effectively spend the dwindling funding that’s available. The state will instead, devote the money to eight larger shelters, which can deliver more extensive services to victims. Wendy Richter, Executive Director of the FCSN in Atlantic, says the loss of roughly $240,000 in several funding streams from the Crime Victim Assistance Division is “Very disappointing,” but no decisions have been made on the future of the facility because that is not dictated by the State.  She says because they own their own shelter, so the decision will be made locally as to its future. If they keep it up and running, it would not specifically be geared toward domestic violence, but for now, nothing will change.

Richter says the FCSN’s Board of Directors will be meeting several times in the next few weeks to determine what the best options are. She says some of the options include continuing serving in the current capacity, including what should be done with the outreach offices in Red Oak and Harlan. Council Bluffs had earlier been approved to cover the service area that the FCSN serves, so if the organization wishes to continue serving in its current capacity, they will be going against State guidelines. Richter says tremendous community support in the past has enabled the shelter to remain open, and for them to set aside funds to continue operations through the end of the current fiscal year.

She says they were able to put funds into a “Rainy day account,” and they are viewing the cuts from the State as a “Rainy day” situation. She says if possible, they would like to use their own funds, plus any local support that is received, to maintain the shelter aspect of the facility. The State says shelters are a huge expense, and not want victims of domestic violence need. Richter agrees, to an extent. She says shelter is the least utilized aspect of family crisis services, because “No Contact” orders allow people to stay in their own homes and stay protected. She says it’s not until the situation becomes serious, that people come into the shelter. Richter says “The need is there,” but it is the most expensive service they offer, “Just because of all the red tape that goes along with having a shelter.”

Janelle Melohn, of the attorney general’s office, says the changes are needed to more effectively help victims at a time when federal funding passed through the state government has repeatedly dropped.