The Domestic Violence Center has done more with less this year, using new shelters to give battered women a permanent alternative to returning to their abusers, the center's director said yesterday.
"We have more options to offer our clients because we have more transitional beds. They're not returning to their abuser because there's no other options for them," said Fran Price, the center's executive director.
The Columbia-based center, formerly called Citizens Against Spousal Abuse (CASA), marked its 13th year and new name Monday night at its annual meeting.
As of May, the center sheltered or counseled 424 men and women during the fiscal year that ends June 30. During the entire previous year, it had 380 clients.
But like many other social service organizations, the center still falls short of serving everyone who comes to it for help.
As of May, it had sheltered 79 women and turned away 205, referring them to other shelters. A year earlier, the center sheltered 122 women and turned away 155, but the help provided them was more often short-term, Price said.
During this year, women stayed in the center's four shelters an average of 45 days. Last year, the average was only 18 days because the center had only two shelters.
Women escaping from abusive partners can stay in the center's eight-bed crisis shelter for up to three months, and then in a transitional shelter for up to 18 months.
The eight-bed transitional shelter, opened in 1989, was reinforced with two more shelters in February and May this year, bringing the number of transitional beds to 22. Seven more beds are expected to be added in September with the addition of a fourth transitional shelter, Price said.
The shelters are being added at a time when the center's budget is about the same as it was last year, which was about $318,000.
They were made possible by a partnership with the county housing authority and grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which partially subsidizes the safe houses and then provides clients leaving the program with subsidized housing of their own. Low-income clients who qualify for the program pay 30 percent of their income for the transitional and permanent shelter.
"It's a permanent solution to homelessness due to domestic violence," Price said.
Besides providing longer-term shelter to battered women and their families, the center also is also expected to give advice to about 600 more people on its hot line, which served about 2,500 callers last year.
The center also served more people through a redesigned program for men who abuse their wives or girlfriends called New Behaviors. The program was changed from an open-ended support group to a 12-week program with instruction in areas such as controlling anger and resolving conflicts. The program served 220 people, about half of them referred by courts, up from 67 last year.