Domestic violence services see second budget cuts crisis in two months

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POSTED: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 6:30pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 7:36pm

Domestic violence shelters across the state are cutting back. That's after the state department of children and family services says it's cutting $1.4 million of funding for shelters. Women's domestic violence shelters just lost $1 million dollars because of mid year budget cuts. Shelter directors say with new plans to cut costs, they'll have to stop offering some services.

"We are currently at capacity. We've been at capacity for over two years," Judy Benitez, Director of Iris Domestic Violence Center, said.

Nearly 50 families stay at the Iris Domestic Violence Center in Baton Rouge, but soon some of those families could be turned way.

"Escaping from violence is something you're putting someone's very life at risk people don't come here, because they are just in a little fight with their spouse. They are coming here because if they don't they know their very life is at risk," Benitez explained.

Benitez said the state continues to cut funds for shelters. but the number of women needing her help hasn't changed.

"It is a pretty severe problem and has been for us for a long time," Benitez said. "It's not as if though we've made great strides in decreasing the problem, and now we can cut back on services. We are not at that position at all."

Benitez said the shelter had to make big cuts back in January.

"We had to cut back from 22 rooms for women and their dependent children to 16. Our capacity has already been reduced," Benitez described the affects of losing $127,000 in funding back in January.

She warns some in the community have suggested stoping funding for shelters all together and letting the families just stay in a hotel room. She explained the idea would be horrible for people trying to leave a domestic violence situation. Most victims only option is the shelter.

"There are potential security issues that they might have to face. At a hotel no one's going to be aware of that ," Benitez described. She says the shelter is also the most cost affective way to keep the families safe.

Now Benitez is worried the new round of funding cuts will force her to stop some services at the shelter.

"We have no fat left to cut. I mean we have already scaled back services," Benitez exclaimed.

The Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence says the problem can turn deadly if services get cut. They say at least 59 people died in Louisiana from domestic violence from October 2011 to September 2012.

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