Halfway through March, Women’s History Month, women’s issues seem at the forefront of political conversations. Unfortunately, one subject getting less attention is the lack of funding for domestic violence programs in Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget. Last year, nearly a million dollars was cut from non-residential domestic violence funding, leaving just $500,000 in funding for all of New York State. Overall, more than $3 million has been cut from domestic violence programs over the past few years. With the budget set to be finalized in the next week or so, it is vital that this funding be restored so that survivors of domestic violence are able to access services that can save their lives.
Since the recession began, there has been a 72 percent increase in the incidence of domestic violence in the Northeast, and domestic violence homicide rates have increased 24 percent in New York. Even with this tremendous increase in need, New York State has been cutting funding to domestic violence programs, including counseling, non-shelter services, and rental subsidies that help domestic violence survivors leave shelters and enter permanent housing. In the current proposed budget, the State plans to completely eliminate funding for non-shelter services.
These programs slated to be cut save the public money – every dollar spent on domestic violence programs saves ten dollars in future costs. More importantly, these programs help individuals, primarily women, leave unsafe conditions and allow them to build a better life. Fleeing abuse, Alejandrina Cruz found safety at Barrier Free Living’s Secret Garden Non-Residential Domestic Violence Program. After receiving counseling and participating in the “cycle of violence” women’s support group, Alejandrina was able to sign the lease on a safe home of her own. Today, at age 64, Alejandrina is certified in self-defense, volunteers with the New York City Police Department’s Auxiliary Unit, and teaches Spanish to low-income families. You can see more of Alejandrina’s remarkable story here.
Barrier Free Living’s The Secret Garden is an award-winning Non-Residential Domestic Violence Program offering a 24-hour hotline, short- and long-term individual counseling, group counseling, advocacy, safety planning, occupational therapy, and referrals to outside services. The Secret Garden Program began in 1986 and was one of the first programs in the country to specialize in working with disabled survivors of domestic violence. While the Secret Garden provides a multitude of services to New Yorkers, many of these are at risk in the State budget.
There is still time for the legislature to restore funding for these critical services. Contact your local representative and urge them to restore $3 million in funding to domestic violence programs. Also, sign the change.org petition urging the legislature to protect programs like The Secret Garden at Barrier Free Living and its work to end domestic violence.
Contributed by Michelle Jackson of the Human Services Council