Shelter That Saves Lives Fights For Its Own

Domestic violence shelter hopes budget cuts don’t pass

By Tara Grimes
|  Tuesday, Jun 9, 2009  |  Updated 2:15 PM CDT
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Is an income tax increase the answer to Illinois' budget woes?

Heather Eidson, Beacon News Staff Photographer

Mutual Ground court advocate Shannon Rankin is placing shoes on a fence outside the shelter, each representing a child who will be turned away if budget cuts close the shelter on June 30.

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Hundreds of shoes hung on a fence outside Aurora's Mutual Ground domestic violence shelter Monday afternoon in a protest. Shoes that many are hoping will save lives.

The shelter, which is in danger of closing after the Illinois legislature passed a budget with a 50% cut in human services, organized the shoe-in. Each shoe represented a woman and child who would be turned away from the shelter if it closes.

"It's kind of a helpless feeling that someone will get battered and there'll be nowhere for them to go," staffer Andrea Klimpke told the Beacon News. "Some of the people who come in here ... I'm terrified there's going to be unnecessary deaths."

The shelter has provided housing for victims of domestic violence and a 24-hour emergency hotline since 1975. It receives 34% of its funding from the state, but if the partial budget is passed by the state Legislature, those dollars will be cut in half.

According to the Chronicle, the shelter would lose $300,000 --too much to allow the shelter to stay open.

Fifty-two shelters across the state will be affected by the cuts, Vickie Smith, director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told the Chronicle.

“Fiscal year 2009, the funding was a little more than $21 million,” Smith said. “How are you going to attempt those same programs with $10.5 million? This is draconian. This is going to hit everybody in their own community. Who is going to respond in the middle of the night?”

Not every shelter would have to close, but many will lay off staff and cut services, Smith said.

In the event of a closure, the Aurora Mutual Ground shelter would still see women and children for counseling and legal advocacy, but it would not serve as a getaway from domestic violence.

Seven women and 20 children are staying in the shelter, but will have to move out by June 30. The shelter is no longer accepting new residents unless they can be out by July 1, Mutual Ground Executive Director Linda Healy told Beacon News.

Healy hopes to see more shoes lined up outside the shelter as a reminder to all that it is a place where women and children seek safety during the worst moments of their lives.

In front of the shoes are signs displaying S.O.S.- “Save Our Shelter”, asking people to call their legislators to ask for help .

On July 1, Healy will hang a large closed sign on the front door.

"I realize people don't want a tax increase, but I think that's the most painless way to go," Healy said.

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