East Tenn. domestic violence shelters, services struggle amid government shutdown

Local News

Programs aimed at addressing domestic violence are feeling the pinch of the partial government shutdown.

There are several examples of organizations that would normally be reimbursed by federal dollars, but with the shutdown now in its 20th day, that’s not going to happen.

Domestic violence shelters across the region say they’re still providing emergency shelter, but advocacy for survivors, which includes someone in court to develop a safety plan or speak with them at the hospital, is at stake right now.

“If things don’t resolve quickly, where do we go from here?” asked Rachel Bruning, executive director of the Avalon Center in Crossville.

Bruning says because of the shutdown, they’ve had to drastically scale back services, furlough most of their staff and only provide critical services including their 24-hour hotline.

“Right now we’re just trying to kind of wait things out. We’re going to continue to provide shelter for as long as we’re financially able. That would be the last thing to go,” she added.

The Avalon Center’s total budget is 75 percent federally funded. Bruning says they’re setting aside money, but board members are having emergency planning meetings. 

“We do have a line of credit that we are going to really reserve for the bitter end, and hopefully things don’t last that long, but you never know,” said Bruning.

The Family Justice Center in Knoxville relies on federal funding through the state in reimbursement which finances three of their six employees.

“We just sent in our request for reimbursement but we won’t get that money until the federal government opens back up,” said Executive Director Amy Dilworth.

Some money has been set aside, but Family Justice Center board members will be meeting to decide if they’ll be taking out loans or halting services.

“This is a concerning shutdown and right now, I mean, it’s the longest it’s been and right now we’re not hearing a lot of resolution,” added Dilworth.

The Family Justice Center’s total budget utilizes 50 to 60 percent federal funding. Dilworth says it’s victim advocacy that’s at stake. 

“The most dangerous time for a victim is when they’re thinking about leaving, leaving, and right after they leave. They need people who are supporting them through that and helping them in the safest way possible,” said Dilworth.

Domestic violence organizations say to keep reaching out and not to worry.

“If I had time to be scared, I might, but I don’t have time. I have work to do,” said Bruninng.

Donna Kelly, executive director of CEASE a domestic violence and sexual assault center in Morristown, says 83 percent of their budget is federally funded.

For January, they’ve taken out a line of credit continuing services including legal advocacy, court services and care at their shelters. 

Kelly says if the shutdown continues, they may have layoffs starting February 1.

In the meantime, CEASE board members are working to raise donations. Kelly says they’ll do everything in their power to keep shelters open and their 24-hour hotline going. She stresses they’re committed to caring for survivors even if resources are scaled back.

How You Can Help: 

With so few options during the shutdown, domestic violence organizations are asking for help from the community.

It can be as simple as making a financial donation, as well as cleaning supplies, food and toiletries that can be used at their emergency shelters.

If you would like to donate to the Avalon Center, click here. The Family Justice Center, click here. Or you can help CEASE by clicking here.

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