Genieve Shelter faces unexpected expenses

Published 8:50 pm Thursday, June 17, 2010

When a parent flees an abusive relationship, part of the decision to leave is to keep the children safe. For women who enter a domestic violence shelter with children, they hold their breath that everything will turn out for the best. Knowing that the stay is only temporary, these families must quickly put together childcare and employment in order to begin saving for a place to live after they leave.

The Genieve Shelter, just as any other emergency shelter, sees its fair share of unemployed women enter shelter with children. Because looking for and attaining employment with a child at your side is difficult, The Genieve Shelter has, in the past, been able to pay for childcare services with various grants.

However, as the economy has changed, so have grant regulations. Where there once was a two-week grace period to look for employment, now there is none. Therefore, the shelter delved into its general funds to supplement this period of transition for clients.

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Where there was once the ability to fund childcare for any family that entered shelter, there became only a limited amount — and for a limited amount of time. Then, the grant funding for childcare ran dry. Therefore, the shelter delved into its general funds to carry this burden. However, as the general funds are dwindling, so is the possibility to help pay for childcare.

And because well-paying employment opportunities are scarce, those clients who have employment cannot pay their living expenses and carry childcare on the minimal wages they earn. The shelter has always held the belief that clients should be saving as much money as possible while in shelter, so they will have a cushion of funds upon leaving.

At first glance, paying for childcare may not seem like too much of a burden for an agency to carry. However, the average cost of daycare for an infant for one week can easily surpass $135. The average cost for a toddler can come to more than $100, and before and after school care can cost upward of $75. Therefore, it could easily cost a family with three children — or the agency — more than $1,240 per month. And, if the family stays the duration of their allotted three-month period, it could cost more than $3,700. (Imagine the costs when the summer hits!)

For a small agency which relies heavily on grants for funding, any reduction in funds can take a heavy toll.

The staff is looking for ways to make cuts in order to help the clients. Brainstorming sessions about how to operate on a smaller budget and meet the basic employment needs of clients are a priority at the shelter.

Although this is a frustrating time, staff continue to look for creative ways to make clients’ lives better and remain true to their belief that each client deserves the opportunity to make a new, safe life for herself and children.

In the past, when funds have been tight at The Genieve Shelter, the community has rallied and provided more than expected to help victims. In fact, most recently, the shelter was the benefactor of both the Suffolk Police Association Charity Ball and the BeautiControl Fashion Show.

Still remaining optimistic, the staff believes their resilience and the ever-present support of the community will help the agency survive this trying time.

If you would like more information about The Genieve Shelter, how you can help, or how someone you know can receive services, call the office at 925-4365. The Genieve Shelter serves the cities of Franklin, Smithfield, and Suffolk and the counties of Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry.

Melissa Hedelius is the parent/community educator at The Genieve Shelter in Suffolk.