A regional redesign of victim services in the state of Iowa has left the Women's Crisis Center and Shelter in Ottumwa with their hands tied.
A process that has divided the state into six regions limits the amount of service providers, like crisis outreach or shelter services, that can be in one region. In fact, only one to two service providers per region per service will be allowed to stay open.
The shelter in Ottumwa did receive funding for domestic abuse outreach services and will stay open in order to offer those services, however, it did not receive funding in order to continue functioning as a comprehensive shelter in the way they have been. The closest shelter in our region providing those services is in Oskaloosa.
Cheryl Brown, Executive Director of the Women's Crisis Center and Shelter, said the cuts were made because while 11% of victims use shelter services, over 50% of resources go into keeping those shelters open. It may be time to look into a different, more cost-efficient way to provide those services, but in the meantime, the goal in Ottumwa is to continue helping women and children find housing and to provide the same victim services, just in a different way.
"The goal is for people to have information so they can make realistic plans," Brown said. "It's very difficult for people to believe the shelter is going to close. Unfortunately, that is the reality. So in order to make that impact, we have to repeatedly go over - these are the plans, this is the back-up plan, this is what we hope happens, we think it will happen, but we don't have guarantees."
Brown said the shelter has applied for transitional funds that will enable it to continue providing housing options for women and children. However, they won't find out if they have received that funding until July 9, so plans are, in effect, up in the air until then.
If the funds are denied, Brown said she believes the shelter will most likely close very soon afterwards.
Meanwhile, the community can still support the shelter by donating funds that will go towards emergency shelter situations, like being able to put women and children up in a hotel for a few days, or rent and deposits on temporary or permanent housing options.
You can send or drop off any donations to the offices at 421 N. Church Street in Ottumwa.
The Women's Crisis Center and Shelter is not the only organization struggling with funding this year. The men's shelter in the Ottumwa Community Outreach Center downtown closed in order to try to help the soup kitchen stay afloat, however, both services ultimately closed their doors.