Domestic Violence Shelters Lose Federal Aid - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Domestic Violence Shelters Lose Federal Aid

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October 1st marked the start of Domestic Violence Awareness month, and also the first day of the government shutdown.

The month is dedicated to raise awareness and help find solutions for victims, but because of the shutdown, many of those victims seeking help are being turned away. The stigma attached to being a domestic violence victim is enough to cause some not to step up and seek help. But what if that victim decided enough is enough and now wants that help, only to be turned away. That's the problem many victims are facing at the 2,000 shelters across the country that rely on federal funds.

"We don't ever want to shut our doors or turn our backs on people in need," says Erin Lambert, Program Manager at YWCA.

But fortunately, here in Billings, the YWCA isn't feeling the effects of the shutdown as much as other shelters.

"We are very fortunate that our community support has allowed us to continue operations relatively unaffected."

How long the government shutdown will last is unknown, which raises questions about the future of domestic violence shelters.

"Most of federal funding goes to support wages and personnel. So, if we're not able to access our federal funding over the long term, we may have to consider how our staffing may be impacted."

The shutdown has already delayed a YWCA  rural program that was funded by a federally funded grant.

"Because of the shutdown, they had to shut that website down and we can't call the help desk or access that website."

The rural violence against women grant allows for the YWCA to have a program in Hardin. But because of the shutdown, it is unknown when the program will open. YWCA hopes the program will be open by the first of the year.

The YWCA is the largest domestic violence victim organization in Montana. The agency helps nearly 700 women a year who suffer from abuse.

"If programs are turning people away or shutting their doors, the risk of domestic violence homicide goes up and we don't ever want to see someone lose their life for any reason, but especially something that would be preventable by having local programs open and operating," says Lambert.