Shelter suffers in recession

Published 9:23 pm Saturday, July 10, 2010

One of the hardest-hit sectors during the recession has been nonprofits, and those in and around Suffolk have not been spared.

At the Genieve Shelter, the problems have continued into the new fiscal year, which started July 1.

The organization, which provides shelter for families trying to escape domestic abuse, just had to trim back two full-time positions to part-time positions and lost tens of thousands of grant money at the beginning of its new fiscal year.


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“I know everyone is saying it, but it’s true,” Genieve Shelter Director Val Livingston said. “In my 13 years here, I’ve never seen it this bad. It’s always been a few thousand here, a few thousand there, but just last week we lost $9,000 in grant money that we received last year and were depending on for this year and won’t get. It’s just getting worse.”

The organization saw donations fall by 25 percent in December.

At that time, the shelter already cut a full-time position and cut back a full-time position to part-time.

“We can’t cut back anything more, but if we have to it would be anything that isn’t directly funded by a grant,” Livingston said in December.

That is what has happened.

“It’s having an effect on our core services,” Livingston said. “We don’t have the staff to go around, at this point. There’s either one person in the office or nobody in the office if that one person gets a request to go to court or something. When you have three phones ringing and only one person to answer, things don’t get done.”

While individuals may have felt the grip of the drowning economy loosen and there have been reports that the stock market may be looking up, the shelter is still losing money.

More than $17,000 in grants that the shelter received last year and had budgeted for this fiscal year were denied.

“We’re starting off this fiscal year in worse shape than last year,” Livingston said. “We’re stepping up our fundraising efforts, but there are only so many dollars. I’m getting turned down by foundations I’ve never been turned down from in seven years.”

The shelter isn’t alone, though.

“One of my cohorts talked about getting a $20,000 cut this year,” Livingston said. “We’re both just trying to figure out how to get it all done. At this point, we’re all in the same place — bobbing for dollars.”

While it’s regrettable to cut positions, the reality of the lost funds is the decreased ability to provide safe shelter and services to the women in Suffolk.

“How many women do we hear of getting killed to know that an emergency shelter is a community need?” Livingston asked. “The shooting in Franklin in June isn’t an isolated incident. We’re talking about protecting lives and helping children live a different life than the one they grew up seeing. If we don’t do something to fix the problem, it will not stay in their house. It will affect the entire community. It will come into the streets, schools and workplace.”