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Domestic violence shelters urge state to restore funding
By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff

Supporters of domestic violence shelters in Elgin, Aurora and DeKalb gathered in Geneva Thursday to detail how state funding cuts have hurt services and urge legislators to restore funding.

 

Harry Hitzeman | Daily herald Staff

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Published: 5/7/2010 12:04 AM

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Leaders from three area domestic violence shelters Thursday called on Illinois lawmakers to fix the state's budget mess before more battered women pay the ultimate price to their abusers.

The Community Crisis Center in Elgin, Mutual Ground in Aurora and Safe Passage in DeKalb each has cut staff and wages while increasing fundraising efforts to make ends meet, officials said from the steps of the Kane County Courthouse in Geneva surrounded by about 50 supporters.

But the shelters are out of money or very close to it, they say, as the state owes them a collective $800,000 and hasn't made a payment since December.

Linda Healy, executive director of Mutual Ground, said the shelter has exhausted a $250,000 line of bank credit, but has been told by the state they cannot close their doors because they have a "contract."

"I believe they also have a contract and they're not living up to it," said Healy.

Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said domestic violence claimed the lives of at least 70 people in Illinois between June 1, 2009, the start of the state's fiscal year, and April 30, 2010.

"If we close our doors, those horrible numbers will certainly increase," Healy said.

Gretchen Vapnar, executive director of the Community Crisis Center in Elgin, said $20 million would fund domestic violence programs in Illinois for a whole year. She chided lawmakers for "blatantly" pitting service agencies against educators for the last crumbs of state funding.

"At a time when we're talking billions (in the state deficit), $20 million seems like chump change. To us, it's not. It's our existence," she said.

Vapnar and Healy said the state has threatened to cut another 10 percent of their funding for the coming fiscal year.

Linda Moser, executive director of Safe Passage in DeKalb, said the uncertainty has taken its toll on her colleagues.

"People are worried for sure." she said. "It's a terrible situation."

Sgt. Branden Gentry, of the Kane County Sheriff's Office domestic violence unit, said the shelters provide a valuable service to abused women and children.

"It would be a huge loss (if the shelters had to close)," he said. "There are times when we have nowhere else to bring (domestic violence victims) if they don't have family in the area. We don't have the funding to put them up in a hotel. This is the last resort."