AVENUES, the Hannibal-based nonprofit that provides temporary housing and counseling for victims of domestic abuse in seven Northeast Missouri counties, including Ralls and Monroe, faces the loss of more than 10 percent of its funding — more than $61,000.
Judy Edmonson, executive director, said last week that the Missouri Department of Public Safety is ending a program that earmarked money for the State Services to Victims that was directed to agencies that fight domestic violence across the state. AVENUES has received the grants for a dozen years or more.
The State Service to Victims fund is collected by the Missouri Administrator of Courts and administered by DPS, which says the program is running out of money.
Funding for the State Services to Victims Fund is provided through a $7.50 court cost assessed in any court in the state (including juvenile court) for violation of a criminal law of the state, including an infraction and violation of a municipal or county ordinance.
The $7.50 court cost assessment also funds an annual appropriation for state forensic laboratories, the Missouri Office for Victims of Crime and the maintenance of a victim notification system (MoVANS – Missouri Victim Automated Notification System).
Last in line for the money are the Crime Victims’ Compensation fund and the Services to Victims Fund, which have received equal shares of the balance.
According to a DPS statement, some 94 agencies are impacted by the shortfall in the funds.
"To be fair, DPS warned us earlier this year that the loss of the funding was possible, and now we know that in September, we will lose the grant," Edmonson said.
If the agency loses 10 percent of its budget and cannot replace the money, Edmonson says AVENUES will be hard-pressed to provide staffing to assist the women and children who are trying to escape domestic abuse.
In 2016, the agency served 88 new women clients and 53 children, who were provided shelter, adding up to 3,965 bed-nights. AVENUES also provided services to a total of 462 victims of domestic abuse, and to 72 sexual abuse victims.
Of the 462 women and children served, 41 were from Monroe City, three from Perry, nine from New London, 25 from Paris and nine from Center.
DPS is working with agencies to apply for grants from a federal program called the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund, which DPS says continues to be well-funded.
The department said that pre-bid seminars for the federal money are being held around the state
grant period for all SSVF grant recipients is being extended from the June 30 end date to Sept. 30 to help accommodate the changes.
There is never a good time to lose funding, but this is particularly bad timing for AVENUES. Domestic violence and abuse is at all-time highs, and Edmonson says that the agency is seeing more women in their 50s and even 60s looking to escape a long cycle of violence. And there is much-needed work at the agency’s shelter.
"We are worried that a loss in funds could be a significant event for us," Edmonson said, adding while she is applying for a federal grant through VOCA, the program is very competitive.
Meanwhile, there are no easy choices for the AVENUES if a VOCA grant does not materialize. The shelter would be in business, but the agency would be forced to reduce staff hours and scale back on outreach services.