Opp abuse shelter could close

Published 12:04 am Friday, October 19, 2012

Officials at Opportunity House say that without a major influx of funds, the doors to the women and children’s shelter could close this summer.

OH board chair member ChaLea Tisdale said a $75,000 grant announced Wednesday by Gov. Robert Bentley is “much needed, much appreciated; however, it is equivalent to putting a band aid on a bullet wound. If we don’t patch the hole and stop the bleeding, we will die anyway.”

Opportunity House offers victims safe shelter, a 24-hour crisis telephone line, individual and group counseling and transportation. The organization’s court advocates prepare victims for legal proceedings and accompany them to court appearances.

“The majority of women in abusive relationships stay there because they have no money, and no support system, leaving them nowhere to go,” Tisdale said. “Opportunity House, and facilities like it, give them an option, and a safe haven until they are able to make arrangements for their basic needs and those of their children.”

Deborah Hooks, OH director, said over the years, grant funds and donations have reduced dramatically. The $75,000 grant will pay for salaries and insurance for two fulltime employees. It does not cover the $5,000 per month operating cost, she said.

“Our two fulltime staff members are working back- to-back 24-hour shifts because we have no money to hire anyone,” she said. “That’s me and Beverly Jaynes.

“People do not realize that it takes a lot of money to run a residential program,” she said. “We have to pay taxes every month for a small business, an electric bill that is between $500-$800 a month to house women. We can no longer offer any services like we use to such as food, clothing, Christmas gifts for children in shelter, dentist appointments and doctor appointments. All we offer is strictly shelter.”

The program does receive funds from the Covington County District Attorney’s Office, the Dixon Foundation and the United Fund; however, that money only goes so far in the year.

Both Hooks and Tisdale said if additional monies aren’t received by the summer months, “we will be forced to close our doors.”

“This will force abused women and children to either stay in an abusive situation or be transported to Montgomery, which is the shelter closest to us,” Hooks said. “Who will transport them? We already do not have enough police officers.

“We have asked for funding from local city and county agencies and do not receive any money from either,” she said. “People do not realize how much this will affect law enforcement and other agencies if we close our doors. It is very hard to start up a new program such as ours. State standards must be met, which takes a very long time. In addition, a facility that can house the women is required, and money in the bank to continue to run month by month until grants are received.”

To contribute money to Opportunity House, donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 554, Opp, AL 36467.