Thursday, August 11, 2011
Kathleen Adamson says a perfect storm is brewing. The executive director of the YWCA of Monterey County speaks anxiously about cuts to the funding sources that keep local social service agencies afloat, even as they struggle with increased need.
She ticks off the Y’s losses: A $7,600 cut from the city of Monterey; and $80,000 in federal money – representing 10 percent of the Y’s budget – to programs that provide free counseling to low-income individuals and help pay the mortgage on the Y’s safe house, the county’s only confidential shelter for female domestic violence survivors.
Meanwhile, the Y has seen a 47 percent increase in counseling clients over last year and a 58 percent jump in legal advocacy clients.
The story is similar at Shelter Outreach Plus in Marina, where program director Katherine Thoeni reports a 15 percent increase in clients since last year.
Adamson tears up explaining the economic domino effect. “You’ve got people without jobs who have a lot of stress,” she says. “Stress pervades family life and leads to domestic violence. If we’re not able to help [victims], they have nothing.”
State and federal budget uncertainties make an already untenable situation even worse. President Obama’s current budget for the coming year, which will soon be up for debate in Congress, cuts Community Action Plan Partnership funding in half, according to county Social and Employment Services Department Director Elliott Robinson. The county dispenses about $750,000 in CAP funds to safety-net nonprofits each year.
California’s current budget is based on the assumption that some $4 billion in revenue will materialize in the next year. Gov. Jerry Brown’s finance office plans to review the budget and certify by Dec. 15 whether that projection is accurate. If it is, no more cuts. If it’s not, “trigger” legislation will require further reductions.
“Nothing right now is definite,” says Glorietta Rowland, executive officer for the Homeless Coalition for Monterey County. “It puts everyone on edge.”
But even though the financial prognosis is grim, county nonprofits have hope for a number of new partnerships intended to combine scarce resources.
Shelter Outreach Plus and Central Coast HIV/AIDS Services have combined their administrative offices into one centralized staff that handles paperwork and grant applications for both organizations. The Y, meanwhile, is exploring a partnership with United Farm Workers, the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center and the county District Attorney’s office to provide bilingual legal assistance to agricultural workers.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) is a strong supporter of the legal assistance program. “The paperwork for filing restraining orders is so onerous and complex,” says Alejo, an attorney himself. “It’s great to see these types of partnerships forming to serve our most vulnerable populations.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Eileen Aoga came to the Y’s safe house last October from Los Angeles, fleeing a life-threatening domestic violence situation. She was seven months pregnant, afraid and alone.
“The first thing I did was cry,” Aoga says. “But the staff helped me with counseling, and the women there became like family.”
Today, Aoga and her son, Elijah, now eight months old, live in a modest one-bedroom house in Marina. She says she’d never be here without the Y’s help.
“They’re there when nothing else works,” Aoga says.