By MADELEINE KEEGAN O’CONNELL, FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, Saturday, October 22, 2022 —
CLOSE TO HOME
The Business of Crisis Assistance
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4.7 million women experience physical violence by an intimate partner each year. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence annually, with 90% of them eyewitnesses to the abuse. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s an appropriate time to examine what that means for our local community.
Established in 1975, YWCA’s 24/7 domestic violence crisis hotline, the only one in Sonoma County, is the most direct path to support for families in need. Calls to our hotline increased an astounding 46% in 2021 over 2020. Safety planning and strategies to ensure relief are at the forefront of every call we receive (the number to call is 546-1234). As needed, we provide a confidential safe house shelter, the only one in Sonoma County for families seeking refuge from harm.
YWCA Sonoma County’s singular role in our community has never been more evident. And given the enormity of the need, you may ask, “How is the agency funded?” The answer is almost as complex as the situations our clients face as they focus on healing from their trauma. For nearly 40 years, YWCA Sonoma County has been awarded contracts from the California Office of Emergency Services. A little-known bill, SB 1246, provides funding based on a percentage of the fee couples pay when applying for marriage licenses. Yes, you read that correctly: when applying for a license to wed, couples are investing in domestic violence services. Shelter beds at YWCA’s safe house are funded in part by the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. YWCA navigators who meet victims/survivors seeking aid at the Family Justice Center are only partially funded by CalOES as facilitated by the county.
While these sources of revenue are the foundation of our domestic violence operational support, they are only a portion of the budget for our services. There is no fee to live in our shelter, which last year alone offered 3,122 bed nights to families fleeing violence. Presently, 19 children and eight adults call our shelter “home.”
Domestic Violence Awareness Month offers the community an opportunity to invest in YWCA in recognition of the investment we have made in our community for more than four decades. Learn more at ywcasc.org.
Madeleine Keegan O’Connell is CEO of YWCA Sonoma County.