Domestic abuse survivor talks about how government shutdown could affect ‘vital services’

Stock image | Photo by kieferpix/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — When Cedar City resident Linda Hudson and her child fled an abusive marriage of 13 years with nothing but the clothes on their backs, Canyon Creek Services was a safe haven and instrumental to her success in life.

Canyon Creek Services, an organization in Cedar City that provides services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, provided comfort for Hudson when she would attend its women’s support groups every week.

After her mother found the support group for her nine years ago, Hudson began attending immediately. She told St. George News the services Canyon Creek offered her were extremely vital to her emotional and physical well-being.

Those services that Hudson and many other survivors cherish have the potential to cease to exist if the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues.

“All the services they had to offer me were just vital and instrumental in my success and being able to overcome the adversities that come with being a survivor,” she said.

An undated photo of Linda Hudson, a Cedar City resident and survivor of domestic abuse | Photo courtesy of Linda Hudson, St. George News

Besides attending support groups, Hudson, who is now a board member for Canyon Creek Services, said she received food, holiday packs, clothing and shoes from Canyon Creek when she needed it. She also received help and support when she decided to go back to school.

“Their advocates helped me go to court when I had to represent myself in court when trying to terminate parental rights against my abusive husband,” she said, adding that a victim’s advocate went to court with her.

Brant Wadsworth, executive director for Canyon Creek, said what people often don’t realize about the government shutdown is that it affects more than just national parks and millions of government workers. It’s affecting programs that provide crucial services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, like Canyon Creek and the Dove Center in St. George.

“Even if the shutdown is to end soon,” Wadsworth said, “I think it’s an important realization for our local communities to realize that programs like us and the Dove Center can really suffer if something like this happens again or continues to happen.”

The Dove Center and Canyon Creek receive federal funding through grants from the Office on Violence Against Women and the Office for Victims of Crime. Due to the government shutdown, Dove Center and Canyon Creek were notified that both of those offices were closing on Jan. 18.

However, Wadsworth said the center was notified from the Utah Office for Victims of Crime that the deadline to ask for reimbursements has been extended through February, hopefully giving centers like Canyon Creek some breathing room in regard to its budget.

Despite the extended deadline, the government shutdown has posed a risk for people suffering from domestic violence or sexual assault needing these services.

Lindsey Boyer, executive director for the Dove Center, said allocated grants are going to be inaccessible for an unknown period of time if the government doesn’t authorize those offices to stay open. How the grants received from the Office for Victims of Crime work is centers will spend the money and then ask the grantors to reimburse them.

Canyon Creek receives about 45 percent of its funding through three grants from the OVC and the Violence Against Women Act, Wadsworth said.

Our organization is funded in large part by government grants because that’s primarily the money that’s available to help us in providing the services that we do to survivors,” he said.

Essentially, if the government shutdown were to continue and that extended deadline ended, Canyon Creek would lose nearly half of its annual operating budget. Wadsworth said the center’s annual operating budget this fiscal year, July 1, 2018-July 30, 2019, is $1.2 million. Now halfway through the year, the center has spent half of that.

Assuming that the shutdown continues into February or beyond, he said the center would no longer be able to operate at full capacity.

“We will start to have to make some cuts and lay off some things to try and stretch keeping our doors open for as long as possible.”

What those cuts may be is unclear, but if the shutdown continues for a few more weeks or months, cuts would have to be made now to continue operating, he said.

“If we operate at full capacity and didn’t make cuts whatsoever, we could operate probably through the end of April, but then we would literally just shut our doors and be completely shut down,” he said.

Right now, he said the center’s priority is to continue providing as many services as possible to as many victims as possible while prioritizing the most vulnerable or most in danger. Then, the center would have to prioritize keeping as many staff as possible and having a contingency plan if the government does reopen.

Dove Center Executive Director Lindsey Boyer talks about the organization’s annual report at its annual meeting in St. George, Utah, Nov. 13, 2018 | File photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

The Dove Center received more than $580,000 in funding from the government. Boyer said the center is fortunate because of the way it diversifies its funding stream. In 2018, the center received almost $400,000 in private donations and local grants.

Read more: Dove Center sees staff, budget double, enabling it to add services, help more survivors

“Fortunately, when something like this happens,” she said, “we’re not completely handicapped by it because we have a community behind us that’s able to support us year-round.”

However, if the government shutdown continues, services the Dove Center provides could be interrupted, much like Canyon Creek.

According to a press release from the Dove Center, the shutdown will directly impact victim advocacy in the emergency room and in courtrooms, as well as counseling and training for staff.

Although Boyer said the center is OK for now, staff will have to reevaluate budgets to make sure lifesaving services remain open if the shutdown continues.

“We’re going to have to reevaluate to make sure that those absolute critical crisis, lifesaving services do not end,” Boyer said. “Our crisis shelter services, at the end of the day, they have to absolutely remain open and continue.”

Boyer said part of the center’s funding is restricted to certain uses, and a portion of funding can be used flexibly. But if those flexible dollars run out, the center would have to pick and choose what definitely needs to be funded and what doesn’t. If other expenses are put on hold, she said, they are able to stretch their funding for critical services, such as its crisis shelter expenses and manning its 24-hour helpline.

Although the center’s staff is concerned about the possibility of a funding gap, Boyer said she’s hopeful it won’t reach that point and that the staff doesn’t want to instill fear in the people who potentially need the center’s services. She also said staff isn’t panicking, and they’re being smart about funding choices. Wadsworth said Canyon Creek staff are also trying to remain optimistic.

To help organizations like the Dove Center and Canyon Creek continue their services, Boyer suggested that people can donate money and their time to volunteering. Wadsworth said most importantly, people need to “make noise” to elected officials.

“I really just want to raise the alarm that the community needs to make some noise and tell our elected officials that this is unacceptable, and this needs to end,” he said.

Hudson said if organizations like Canyon Creek were to shut down, it would cause a “terrible predicament” for people needing the services.

“If you don’t have that kind of support, success is a lot less likely to happen,” she said.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • Just Guessin January 18, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Guess its time to stand on your own two feet and stop expecting other people to take care of your problems for you.
    Government is not the answer, they are the problem. ‘Nuff Said

    • Captain Oblivious January 18, 2019 at 8:57 pm

      There is an amazing community standing behind those that truly need the support. I think a little less government in our lives is a great thing! Even if it means less “free” money.

    • Connor January 19, 2019 at 12:47 am

      If you’re running from an abusive marriage, where do you go? What do you mean, “stand on your own two feet”? What can you do with nothing but the clothes on your back, would you rather she face homelessness and starvation? Canyon Creek offered a necessary support net for this woman. They’re not the government, they just receive some of their funding from the government. Without it, women like Linda will not be allowed the resources they need to live their lives past surviving abuse.

  • bikeandfish January 18, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    I appreciate the organizations and allies bringing critical attention to this negative outcome of the shutdown. These organizations receive a critical amount of funds from the government that isn’t found through community donations, which are already generous. Grants are 100% needed for these services to protect the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Their programs save lives in our communities.

  • jaltair January 19, 2019 at 3:28 am

    I was fortunate to have friends when my marriage to an abuser ended in 1981. Back then, there were no groups to help. I was virtually in the darkest, deepest hole, … one could only imagine. My good friend and her husband took me and my daughter in, and I couldn’t function for 3 days, terrified by the threats levied by the abuser who carried a gun. I had no hope, no positive self esteem, no job, zero zero everything. It so good these services exist now, and I have faith they will continue through this necessary setback. Women needing help really do need the help to stand on their own two feet, and face a new and different world and get prepared to go there. Unless you walk in the shoes of a “victim”, it’s hard to understand the various emotions that flood in and the damage these inflict on the mind, soul, body, every piece of a woman is affected.

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