Domestic Violence Shelter Faces Funding Crisis

By Ted Houston

Three years ago, Sojourner Center in Phoenix was the largest domestic violence shelter in the country, with the ability to house up to 280 women and children trying to escape a violent home life.

But a budget cut resulted in staff cuts that allowed the agency to only help a maximum of 224 people at a time.

Now, a “resource reallocation” within the state Department of Economic Security has resulted in Sojourner Center losing $500,000 in state funding. As a result, it’s now having to close off another 80 beds, leaving Sojourner Center able to serve only about half as many clients as before.

“We have the rooms. We have the beds. But we can’t provide the services without supportive and caring advocates,” says Connie Phillips, executive director of Sojourner Center . “We’re now turning away half the calls for shelter, because we don’t have the staff to serve them.”

In some cases, those callers can be transferred to other social service agencies – but not always. Sometimes, she says, callers simply have to be asked to call back another time. Many of them, Phillips says, the women choose to remain where they are, in a potentially violent situation.

Flanked by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Joe Clure, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, Phillips told reporters at a news conference that her agency is appealing to the community to try and make up for that half-million dollars in funding.

Clure said every police officer knows about domestic violence and the havoc it can cause in a family. “It’s one of the most common calls for service we respond to,” he said.