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Domestic Violence Shelters in Missouri Turn Victims Away

Springfield’s domestic violence shelters are almost always at full capacity, but they’re not the only ones. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes tells us how a statewide crisis has shelters turning victims away this holiday season.

According to the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Missouri’s unmet needs for sheltering victims increased by more than 60 percent last year, and that trend continues.

Zachary Wilson is the development director for the coalition. He says they’re looking for ways to help women who are bravely trying to help themselves.

“There’s definitely a lot of work that’s going on right now from looking to secure additional funding, also looking on how to provide the most effective services so that we can help women survivors increase their self sufficiency and find that access to get out of these short term shelters. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of housing and there’s a lack of transitional housing right now. That’s one of the major obstacles,” says Wilson.

Wilson says this is a statewide issue. Locally, Springfield is experiencing many of the same problems. Rodney Dwyer is the executive director of Harmony House. He says they’re currently at full capacity and having to use other resources to help those in need.

“We try to talk with them through their list of other options such as family and friends. Many times somebody will say, ‘I have no place to go.’ [But] sometimes through a series of questions you can actually find somebody who might be willing to help them until an opening becomes available,” says Dwyer.

Along with trying to find people a safe place to stay, Harmony House also provides important information on how to avoid dangerous situations where violence might occur. Dwyer says even if you think the shelter is full, you should always call the hotline during emergencies.

The economy is playing a big role when it comes to keeping women safe from domestic violence. Wilson says although a lackluster economy doesn’t cause domestic violence, it does effect what’s going on at home.

“Bad economy doesn’t create domestic violence, it definitely escalates what’s going on. So, people that may be getting yelled at now whenever situations are tougher economically, that’s when the violence can occur,” says Wilson.

Both Wilson and Dwyer say an increase in the rate of domestic violence and reduced funding are both results of the poor economy.

Dwyer says that Harmony House has received fewer private donations since the recession. The one thing that has actually improved is volunteers.

“We always need more volunteers, but the economy over the last couple of years I think has had the opposite effect. We’ve had actually more people stepping forward in a volunteer capacity. Several of our volunteers actually are people who have been laid off from other jobs and looking to do something productive with their downtime,” says Dwyer.

Currently, for every person who is served at a domestic violence shelter in Missouri, two people are being turned away.

For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.