Women’s shelter faces funding crisis

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cuts in state funding have cost Opportunity House one staff member and the funding for two grants.

Director Deb Hooks said Tuesday the women and children’s shelter in Opp lost approximately $25,000 in money from the state general fund.

“That’s a 40 percent cut in state funding,” Hooks said. “Add to that we lost two grants, too. It’s devastating. I know we have to do it to get us where we need to be (in regards to state finances), but it’s hard.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Robert Bentley ordered 15 percent proration of the current General Fund budget, prompting cuts throughout state government.

Hooks said as a result, Opportunity House lost the funding for the employee responsible for helping clients find local housing.

“It also meant the program went away because the grant that funded it went away,” she said. “That program helped women, who had a job and income, find housing. It would pay their deposits for rent and utilities. Now, that whole program is cut.”

Additionally, another shelter employee will be cut from fulltime to part-time in August.

Hooks said grant funds are utilized to cover the majority of salary costs.

“We’re down to two staff members during the day,” she said. “At night, we have one worker who works 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and another who comes in from then until when we get here in the morning.”

Hooks said in the nine years she’s been employed at the shelter, the staff has decreased from 13.

“When I started, the money was great,” she said. “We would get $150,000 a year in grants, and there were 13 staff members. That number was reduced by one every year since, and grant funding is almost gone.”

Hooks said that grant funding helped pay for food, clothes and “little extras” such as Christmas and birthday presents for the women and children in the shelter. It also covered a full-time court advocate.

“Now, that’s all gone,” she said. “The women have to get food stamps and go to the Christian Mission for clothes. We do what we can to support them when it comes time to go to court.”

Hooks said there is a real danger of losing Opportunity House if additional funding is not secured.

“I hope and pray things turn around,” she said. “We can’t keep going like we’re going if we don’t get funding. (The shelter has) been here 19 years. If things go like this, we can’t exist with the constant cuts.”

Hooks said the closest shelters would then be in Dothan or Montgomery.

“With no place to go, women can’t leave home,” she said. “The judicial system will be bombarded with domestic violence cases, and there’ll be nowhere local for these women to go.”

But until a funding solution is found, Hooks said the shelter and its staff will “make do with what we have and pray for the best.”