By Andria Simmons
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Five women had to stop job hunting and one lost a job when the Partnership Against Domestic Violence battered women’s shelter in Gwinnett County could no longer help pay to keep their kids in day care last year.
Two dozen southwest Georgia women awaiting divorces can’t proceed with them because the Liberty House of Albany has no money for legal services.
And nearly a hundred battered women from the Haven Battered Women’s Shelter in Valdosta will not receive in-house therapy to help them deal with past abuse. The shelter had to lay off its only therapist three weeks ago.
“We’re at bare bones,” said Michelle Girtman, executive director of the Haven.
Declaring independence from an abusive relationship is becoming tougher than ever for battered women and men in Georgia. Among the many tough choices it was forced to make, the General Assembly cut funding for the state’s network of 45 domestic violence shelters and programs by 14 percent last year. The budget crunch forced shelters to limit financial assistance to victims, eliminate jobs and double up on work shifts.
This year, at least $300,000 (roughly 6 percent) is likely to be subtracted from the budget and there are no plans to restore those funds next year. State legislators are trying to use federal stimulus money as a temporary fix. However, as state revenues continue to plunge, next year’s funding is at risk.
Budget cuts are difficult to absorb, even in a strong economy. But in this recession, private donations are down as much as 60 percent while demand for services is up by as much as 50 percent, according to Nicole Lesser, executive director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (Donations received and demand for services vary from shelter to shelter.) The coalition is a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of a statewide network of domestic violence shelters and community-based programs.