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Jan 29, 2019 10:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Retreat Clients Feel The Sting Of Government Shutdowns

Loretta Davis, executive director of The Retreat, apple picking with a child client. COURTESY THE RETREAT
Jan 29, 2019 10:39 AM

The federal government shutdown was going into its fifth week on January 22 when Loretta Davis, The Retreat’s executive director, explained what that would mean for her organization, which provides services and shelter for families and individuals escaping domestic violence and abuse.

Although the shutdown ended on Friday, January 25, for at least three weeks, the organization fears its effects for months to come if the shutdown resumes.

Ms. Davis said the shutdown had her worried not only about the non-for-profit losing its funding, but also about clients benefiting from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and funding for the Section 8 housing program, which aids low-income individuals with paying their rent.

“Those are two concrete programs that affect a lot of people, including our clients,” Ms. Davis explained.

“Our funding is going to be delayed until the shutdown is over,” she said before it ended. “More than half of our funds are from the government. It’s significant and it already jeopardizes the safety of so many survivors.”

Last year, the youngest client came to the shelter with her mother when she was just 2 days old, Ms. Davis said.

Since 1987, The Retreat has been providing domestic violence and sexual assault services and education to families on the East End, and it also houses victims of domestic abuse in emergency cases. If, for example, a mother flees an abusive husband in the middle of the night with two children, The Retreat will offer counseling for all three of them, get the children into a local school and, if needed, provide shelter.

Victims are able to stay at the Retreat shelter for 90 days with their family members, and that 90 days can be extended if needed.

Currently, the Retreat has 18 beds, all of which are full. However, most clients don’t live at the shelter, but come to see the counselors and advocates. Professionals and trained volunteers give family members an opportunity to heal through counseling, and help in reestablishing their lives.

The Retreat receives two payments a year from the government and was notified that, thanks to the shutdown, the second payment, of $32,000, will be delayed. Domestic and sexual violence shelters nationwide have been in jeopardy because their funding is administered through grants provided through the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act, both administered by the Department of Justice.

Although domestic abuse spans all income levels, many of The Retreat’s clients have low incomes and also benefit from government-funded programs like food stamps and Section 8 housing.

Ms. Davis said that the United States Department of Agriculture will send out SNAP benefits for January and February despite the shutdown, but that the uncertainty of SNAP benefits beyond February is becoming an issue for the millions of people who rely on them.

In addition to the SNAP program, the Section 8 housing program, which helps low-income tenants pay their rent, may be delayed—leading The Retreat to join with the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which is another non-for-profit, to ask Governor Andrew Cuomo to advocate for and produce emergency funding if the need arises.

The Retreat also receives food through grants from Long Island Harvest and Long Island Cares, which will continue even if the shutdown resumes. “We’re the only shelter out here. We’re the only shelter with these supportive services and programs,” Ms. Davis pointed out.

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The Violence Against Women Act should be permanently funded by Congress. It speaks volumes about our government’s priorities and the party in power when it comes to protecting the safety of victims of domestic violence.

“ Victims of domestic violence shouldn’t suffer just because our government doesn’t want to play nice in the sandbox.”
By ValGal03 (58), Montauk on Jan 31, 19 12:35 PM