DASH NEWS RELEASE : July 31, 2009
PUBLIC OVERSIGHT HEARING
BY THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE ON
THE FISCAL YEAR 2009 AND FISCAL YEAR 2010 BUDGET
July 24, 2009
Peg Hacskaylo, MSW
District Alliance for Safe Housing, Inc.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today regarding the Fiscal Year 2009 and 2010 Budget. I am Peg Hacskaylo, Executive Director of the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH). DASH is deeply concerned about the cuts in the Mayor’s proposal to different programs serving domestic violence victims and their children. DASH’s plea today focuses on the cuts facing the Office of Victims Services (OVS), for funding that impact your constituents, primarily women and children, facing circumstances that are so terrifying, some have called it the equivalent of war in the home – we know it as domestic violence.
The current cuts facing OVS total $340,000. These cuts will leave victims and children with few or no options for help, safety or support. The District has less than 10 organizations dedicated to domestic violence victims, the majority with fewer than 5 staff. These organizations are barely surviving in this economy, many having laid off staff; cut salaries for employees already living a non-profit lifestyle – often paycheck to paycheck; cut programs and services; or stopped serving new clients because the capacity does not exist. Each organization meets specific needs like housing, legal services, case management, and court based advocacy. Many organizations serve special populations, such as immigrant, teens, and disabled victims. The OVS cuts will devastate our community and the victims we serve.
DASH is the direct result of your dedication and commitment to victims and their children, specifically to victims and children in need of safe housing. We are also the result of OVS’s commitment to ensuring that your vision for increasing safe housing comes to life. DASH’s housing projects are the first large-scale housing projects for victims in the District in over twenty years. We must have the District’s continued funding commitment to sustain housing programs and provide safe housing options for the District’s residents. While housing is a critical component to an effective coordinated community response to domestic violence, so too are the core services needed to address the devastating legal, economic and emotional impact of domestic violence on victims and their children. When victims access DASH’s low-barrier safe housing programs they will have found physical safety, but DASH advocates and the victims we serve need to rely on a large and strong network of organizations to support each family in addressing a multitude of issues.
In recent months, homicides related to domestic violence have received significant media attention — husbands killing their wives and children, boyfriends killing girlfriends — countless innocent lives have been lost. The media has put the spotlight on domestic violence and the impact of the economy. Today I want us to consider the fact that domestic violence existed prior to the economic downturn. I want us to think about how the tragic impact of this economy will be the elimination or depletion of services to victims and their children. Cutting funds to OVS will directly result in that. Yes, during these economic times many victims fear leaving their batterers because they may have lost their jobs and have no financial resources or they may have no place to go because the homeless shelters are at capacity and safe housing options are still limited. However, that does not mean attempts to find safety will not be made. The same victims who fear leaving their batterers may still make that call for help to a hotline, or one of the local domestic violence programs, or DASH and we must be here to support them. The District cannot take away any more life lines.
Your efforts to sustain the levels of funding to OVS in recent years has directly resulted in lives being saved and families finding the help they need. This is not the time to consider cutting funds to the organizations in the District providing services and support to victims—often serving as the only lifeline they have.
I know you face challenging decisions and all of the cuts you are considering will impact underserved populations, but my plea today is for you to spare OVS, for the sake of the victims and children who are still able to get services from District providers.
It is always challenging for victims in safe housing to speak publicly about their experience due to safety concerns. However, there are many stories and experiences to share. The following stories come directly from victims served by DASH:
“DASH gave me a home! A place for my son and I to feel safe and cared for. I consider them one of my many blessings”
“I really appreciate the opportunity I was given for me and my family to start over. CVC and DASH has been a big help and really gave me everything I needed to gain my independence back. I am so thankful for this program. Everyone has been extremely helpful during this extreme time of need. In the last 4 months, I have felt safer here than I have in years. Thank you so much for this program, and the staff you have running this program. My advocate as well as the rest of the DASH team, they have made this transition for me and my family go as smooth, safe, and comfortable as they possibly could. I am ready to go on my own, and start my life over with me and my 4 kids….”
“…The DASH program is helping me rebuild my life for my children and for myself. There are not any other programs like DASH. I entered the program with a 3 week old son and two other children, and I don’t know what I would have done without DASH….”
“I was pregnant when I was assaulted by the father of my son. I was assisted by Crime Victims and placed at a hotel. I gave birth to my son. This program has been a blessing for myself and my three children. It has enabled me to feel safe, supported, and at peace. Since entering the DASH program I have been able to get myself mentally organized, and regain my strength. I am very hopeful for me and my kid’s futures; I have not had to depend on others which is a blessing. My 16 year old and 17 year old are happy to be here as well. My goal while in the program is to find housing, transitional or find an apartment, and to find employment. Since I have been here I have gotten a lot done for my baby boy such as getting birth certificates, social security card, finding daycare very close to where we are, finding pediatrician and just getting to know my newborn without drama from others.”
“First of all I want to say thank you all of the program staff. God bless you and your life, family. We need to be stay here because we got some place, helping to find school, food, money for transport….thank you for giving us this chance and God bless this program.”
Overview of Domestic Violence in the District of Columbia:
In 2008, the Metropolitan Police Department received 31,215 domestic violence-related calls—one call every 19 minutes. In 2008, during one 24-hour period, 167 victims were served by domestic violence organizations in the District, and 134 victims were either in emergency or transitional housing, including hotels, or were provided assistance with finding safe housing. Local hotlines receive approximately 300 calls weekly from victims seeking housing.
District of Columbia Council Funding Appropriations Directly Impacts Victims of Domestic Violence Victims and Children Seeking Safe Housing:
Until March 2009, the District only had 48 emergency beds for victims and their children. This changed as a result of District leadership committed to the safety of victims and their children. As a result of this commitment and the funding appropriations directed toward safe housing programs, DASH launched our emergency safe housing program, Huruma Place I and II, more than doubling emergency safe housing for victims and children. In just four months, we have provided safe housing to twenty-two victims and forty-four children. In fact, Huruma Place is a direct result of the FY09 local safe housing funding appropriation that was saved just a few months ago due to the leadership and commitment of city leaders, advocates and District residents to ensuring that the city follows through on its dedication of funds to increase and sustain safe housing.
The Council has shown its ongoing commitment by ensuring that adequate local funds have been appropriated for safe housing each fiscal year since 2007. Due to this funding commitment DASH will more than triple safe housing for victims in FY 2009 and FY2010.
OVS has demonstrated its commitment to both sustaining and creating safe housing by ensuring that funding is appropriated to local shelter and safe housing programs. Through OVS’s support of DASH’s programs and activities, and through their vision and leadership, OVS has gained broad community investment in their plan for expanding and sustaining domestic violence housing.
In addition to Huruma Place, DASH has been able to create and sustain several programs that directly address the housing needs of victims and their children. We provide a scattered site transitional housing program, and through our Housing Resource Center we work directly with victims and caseworkers to generate housing options and help victims gain access to safe housing. DASH is also in the process of beginning renovations on our 44-unit building that will function as a low barrier, co-located emergency and transitional safe housing program for all domestic victims – regardless of addiction, mental illness, or disability. We plan to open the doors to this housing program by 2010.
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