Domestic-violence fund shrinks

By Lovelle Harris

A limited funding source has pitted three local domestic-violence shelters into a debate over who gets what.

Sacramento County supervisors recently followed a staff recommendation to devote $187,691, or 81 percent of its domestic-violence trust fund, to WEAVE, to the chagrin of smaller organizations My Sister’s House and A Community for Peace.

This year, the trust fund shrunk from $520,650 to $230,703. The reason for the sharp drop—or rather, the reason there was more money last year—is because the Department of Human Assistance discovered an unspent $418,000 in convicted batterer’s fees during a 2012 audit, allowing for the one-time surplus spending, a staff report states. In other words, a happy anomaly.

But everything that comes up must slam down. The return to economic reality means there’ll be less for WEAVE, too, pointed out spokeswoman Julie Bornhoeft. The fund is cobbled from fees on marriage licenses and batterers.

Still, the two other groups wanted more equitable shares of money from the fund. Their representatives contend that county staffers based funding recommendations on an inflexible formula that only considers the number of shelter beds without verifying their usage or providing for annual reviews.

In a letter to the board, A Community for Peace executive director Elaine Whitefeather said the $19,551 allocation to her group would mean a 45 percent funding decrease.

“We’re a real young, developing organization,” Whitefeather told SN&R a week after the vote. “So when you cut $20,000 off of [our] budget, that’s the same as cutting $50,000.” She was quick to add that her beef isn’t with WEAVE.

Nilda Valmores, executive director of My Sister’s House, whose shelter specializes in serving Asian and Pacific Islander survivors of domestic abuse, concurred.

“I think that one of best things that Sacramento County has going for it is that fact that it does have three domestic-violence shelters, but each has a different emphasis and different way of operating, and that’s really important,” Valmores said.

But both organizations backed an alternative funding plan that called for a three-year transition toward equal shares for each organization.

Instead, the county based its decision on the hard number of beds, for which WEAVE lords over the other two. WEAVE has 96 shelter beds, compared to a combined 22 for the other service providers.

But supervisors also asked staff to return next year with a modified funding formula, which Whitefeather called “a victory for our two smaller organizations.”

This represents the third year that the latter two organizations, formed in 2000 and 2008, respectively, vied for money from the trust fund.

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