COVID-19 causes cuts to domestic violence shelter space, victims still needing help

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 9:14 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There is not enough shelter space to protect all domestic violence victims from abuse. Shelters in at least six southwest Missouri counties are full, and have been for months.

Lisa Farmer, the Executive Director for Harmony House, believes domestic violence has gotten even worse in many homes because of the pandemic.

“This is a huge trigger. More people are suffering, and they’re suffering at home and they feel like they don’t have options," Famer said.

For anyone trying to escape abuse, emergency shelter space is now even harder to come by.

“Due to COVID, we have reduced our census so we can social distance," Farmer said.

Being full is nothing new for Harmony House, or most other shelters across the state, but Farmer said Harmony House has had to cut its capacity by nearly half. That’s forced her staff to turn even more people away.

“You have to tell them at one of the worst moments of their life, ‘We’re so sorry, but we don’t have a bed for you,'" she said.

Domestic violence shelters in Christian, Webster, Taney, Hickory and Polk Counties are all facing the same reality.

The Webster County Victim Assistance Program offers individual homes for families, and has been full since the start of the year.

The Crisis Center of Taney County said it’s been at capacity for five years. The executive director said over the phone, for every one person who finds shelter, two are turned away.

Helping Hands Abuse and Crisis Center in Hickory County has been full since February.

“I think all shelters are cutting capacity. It’s almost mandatory," said Lexi Ward.

Ward leads House of Hope in Bolivar.

“When we have an empty spot, we fill it quickly, within the day generally," she said.

She said her staff is still offering support and advocacy while waiting for a bigger shelter to be built.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you know, you can become a victim of domestic violence and you could wind up needing to reach out for help," she said.

House of Hope and Harmony House are both getting more hotline calls than normal right now. Farmer fears that could increase even more when cold weather hits.

“Domestic violence is one of the top reasons why women and families become homeless, so moving into the winter months, that’s a very real concern," she said.

Farmer said, even if there is not enough space in a shelter, hotlines are still open for advice on a safe escape.

She said there are several resources in Springfield, like the Greene County Family Justice Center, that advocates can connect victims to.

“There is help out there. One way or the other, we will help," she said.

For more on the organizations in local counties, the resources they offer and how to contact them, click one of the links below:

Greene County: Harmony House

Polk County: House of Hope

The Crisis Center of Taney County

Webster County Victim Assistance Program

Helping Hands Abuse and Crisis Center of Hickory County

Many of these groups are willing to offer case management, counseling, transportation and even hotel rooms for victims in desperate situations.

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