Growing Need for Domestic Abuse Shelters


A recent state report by the Department of Children and Families shows there’s a growing need for domestic abuse shelters. Money to expand can be tough to come by.

A change in state law allows county money to be used for domestic abuse shelters; however, that revision occurred only recently and budgets are tight. State dollars are also limited. As for federal dollars under the Violence Against Women Act, those funds cannot be used for building projects. So, that leaves the public as a giving source, at time when the economy is struggling. Gerald Wilke is executive director of Bolton Refuge House in Eau Claire. He calls it a “perfect storm:” shelter need increases as building dollars decrease, “When we embarked on this (expansion) project we couldn’t have picked a worse time with economic times as they are but it just necessitated us”

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Wilke says with the expansion they now have 29 beds, and are getting calls for shelter from as far away as Madison and Milwaukee. Domestic abuse advocates in Madison just started a $7 million fundraising campaign. And Hope House in Baraboo is halfway toward getting enough donations for a bigger building. Ellen Allen is executive director of Hope House: “We ended up taking out a short term loan and then a longer term loan So that’s difficult for a nonprofit to take out a mortgage on a building because most of our funds are targeted for services and so we still have this need to raise capital campaign funds.”

In Wausau, a bigger shelter called Women’s Community opened up in April. Executive director Jane Graham-Jennings says there’s been a trend of victims staying longer, because the economy is making it difficult for them to get back on their feet.

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