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October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. There’s only one shelter in Springfield for victims to go to for safety, support, and supplies. As KSMU's Rebekah Clark reports, that shelter, Harmony House, is consistently filled to capacity and having to turn abused women and children away. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.
According to Harmony House Development Director, Danielle Conti, the statistics are sobering:
“Last year, nineteen thousand adults and children were unable to find shelter in Missouri when they needed it. Of course, that number is huge nationally. And here locally, we had to turn away over 700 women and children because we didn’t have the space available for them.”
What this means, she says, is that in a person’s time of ultimate need, she is forced to make a decision between staying in a violent situation or potentially becoming homeless.
“We try to work with other domestic violence shelters in the area, which, there are no other domestic violence centers in Springfield or Greene County—we are it. And we’re one of the biggest shelters in the state of Missouri, and one of the oldest. But just by comparison, a shelter maybe in Boliver or in Christian County or maybe down in Branson, they may have 17 beds, where we have 110. So, for the most part, those shelters are full, too.”
Conti says the ratio is 1:1—for every one person they take in, they also deny one, due to space. Statewide, she says, for every one person who is accepted into a shelter, two are turned away. The need, she says, is much greater than the available resources.
However, Conti says Harmony House doesn’t turn anyone away empty-handed.
“We have an outreach program and an outreach case manager that has a support group for people that don’t necessarily stay in the shelter but still need support. She also tries to give them access to whatever resources we have at the shelter, like if they need help with food or if they need help with creating a safety plan, helping them get in contact with the courts so they can set up orders of protection.”
She says that many of the funding sources the shelter used to have dwindled over the last couple years due to the rough economic times.
Conti invites people to come and take a tour of the shelter to see the work that’s being done there.
She added that Harmony House is in the very early phases of looking at how to expand the shelter in Springfield.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.