Facing an unexpected $130,000 cut in state funding, the Time Out Inc. domestic violence shelter has cut staffing levels and imposed furlough days in an all-out effort to stay in business.
“We are committed to keep our doors open,” said Camille Levee, the center’s executive director.
With the center at capacity, news of the cuts struck a heavy blow for staff and Levee, who just last month started work at the area’s only domestic violence shelter.
Levee said the cuts demonstrate that the facility can no longer rely on a single major funding source. In the past, 81 percent of the shelter’s $1.6 million budget came in the form of state grants.
The state changed the formulas by which it calculates how much money to give each domestic violence shelter. The new formula hit the Payson shelter hard.
Levee hopes to transition the facility to broaden the group’s financial base, including grants, private donations and fund-raisers.
While it could take time to build up the center’s donations, immediate cuts are helping curb costs.
Three employees voluntarily took an early retirement, shaving $20,000 from costs.
Levee said none of those people had planned to retire, but wanted to help the organization. One is coming back as a volunteer.
That means, however, the remaining staff must do more with less money and time.
In addition, the center has imposed furlough days for all employees while the shelter’s services and hours will not change.
“I want to get the message out there that we are still open for business — nothing is changing,” Levee said. “However, people may see fewer faces on the property.”
While budgets fluctuate, the need at Time Out has been consistent.
Time Out generally runs at about 88 percent capacity in its transitional housing units and 61 percent at the emergency shelter, according to 2010 and 2011 data from the Department of Economic Security.
Capacity jumps beyond capacity when a mother comes in with several children, including an infant that needs a crib.
Most recently, one mother came to the shelter in April with eight children.
“She stayed with us for a week while we arranged for a larger shelter to accommodate her,” Levee said.
Time Out is one of the few rural shelters that can accommodate a mother with boys older than 11.
Most shelters have communal living areas that do not offer the privacy to house older boys.
“We are one of the few that can keep the family intact,” she said.
Time Out has housed male children up to 18 years old using the center’s separate family unit. For this reason, mothers will often come from around the state because they have nowhere else to go.
While most state-funded programs have faced cuts, Levee said she doesn’t fully accept the Department of Economic Security’s (DES) reasoning for cuts.
DES Director Clarence Carter recently wrote that after reviewing the 2010 U.S. Census figures and how many clients use emergency shelter services, funding was adjusted appropriately for each county.
While domestic violence shelters were traditionally established for emergency shelter and transitional housing, as well as crisis intervention and safety planning, women are now using shelters increasingly for legal advice and counseling.
“Two years ago, before my arrival in Arizona, domestic violence contractors and DES discussed these changing trends, which showed that more individuals experiencing domestic violence do not need emergency shelter services,“ Carter said.
Levee disagreed with this assertion.
“Every community is different, and to say across the board that fewer women are seeking shelter is certainly not true here,” she said.
The staff at Time Out that provides emergency shelter is the same staff that offers community outreach and counseling.
Carter wrote that DES took into account that rural shelters do function differently than metro shelters.
“The funding formula for DV services is based upon population with an additional weighted factor for rural counties,” he said.
In reviewing census figures, DES found that the numbers reflected population shifts, decreasing the amount of funding available in Payson.
While the census can provide a good baseline, “it is a documented fact that people of lower socio-economic and educational levels, particularly in a rural community, do not respond to the census,” Levee said.
DES says it included a weighted factor in its funding formula for each county designated as rural by the Census Bureau.
“Since these shifts in population would affect the funding for some counties more than others, we encouraged our domestic violence contractors to collaborate with other community and provider organizations within their county to help manage the expected changes, avoid duplication of services, and maximize resources,” Carter said.
Levee said Time Out is finding ways to make do with the cuts since the need remains urgent.
Since they cannot lower the $75 it costs to house a woman for a night, the shelter is looking for ways to ramp up its fund-raising.
On July 13, Levee attended the Spend a Night in Jail fund-raiser in Globe, which raised money for both the Globe and Payson shelters.
On Oct. 25, the shelter is also hosting the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes walk. The shelter is still looking for sponsors for the event.
Levee is also stepping up efforts to get funding from private foundations.
“While change is never easy, DES is committed to working closely with our DV contractors and communities across Arizona to ensure the needs of persons requiring domestic violence services are being met through a flexible, person-centric human services delivery system.” Carter said.