BLAINE, Minn. – Alexandra House, Anoka County's only emergency shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence, may face a crisis of its own.
The organization is among a coalition of Twin Cities domestic violence shelters set to lose longstanding funding from the Greater Twin Cities United Way (GTCUW) beginning July 1.
Facing a $6 million fundraising shortfall, the Greater Twin Cities United Way eliminated $4.5 million from the “Safety from Family Violence” initiative, a domestic violence grant program 16 local organizations rely on.
Alexandra House Executive Director Connie Moore said staff members learned of a $238,000 annual loss mid-April, one year into a three-year grant cycle, giving only 10 weeks to bridge a funding gap before the cuts begin.
“We have to look at, are we going to have to eliminate positions, which means cutting back on services or eliminate a service we are currently providing?” said Moore.
“We are really sympathetic, we know we have given tough news, and put many organizations in an unexpected place, our heart goes out to them, we know they need to look at all resources, one is raising more money and one is shifting their programming,” said Sarah Caruso, Greater Twin Cities United Way President and CEO.
Caruso says cuts came as a result of changing giving habits within United Way, with more people designating donations to specific charities instead of a United Way-supported initiative.
“All organizations in the nonprofit and social service sector are on high alert, we are all worried about what the future will bring,” said Caruso. “These cuts were painful and challenging, they don’t represent everything that we do.”
Caruso said the Greater Twin Cities United Way, serving 850,000 local families, is moving away from emergency funding with a focus on getting children and families out of poverty. The organization also made its own cuts within, including staff layoffs and an executive salary freeze.
The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, a state domestic violence coalition, called the funding cuts a betrayal to the community partnership between Greater Twin Cities United Way and its partner organizations.
“To be told that in 10 weeks, all domestic violence funding GTCUW would be eliminated was shocking and a devastating blow to programs,” said Liz Richards, Executive Director for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, in a letter to Caruso and the GTCUW Board of Directors.
“Because programs are given little time before funding is eliminated, they are faced with tough decisions and may ultimately be forced to lay off staff and eliminate programming resulting in reduced services to domestic violence victims and their families,” Richards wrote.
For Alexandra House, dollars lost may fracture the safety net for families in need.
“There is a real connection between homelessness, domestic violence, poverty, we are all interconnected,” said Moore.
The Greater Twin Cities United Way said of 16 local domestic violence programs affected, nine programs will continue to receive some funding when it comes to housing and food. Caruso also said Greater Twin Cities United Way is investing $1M of its own dollars to help these organizations transition.
Alexandra House is now putting out a community alert for public support to bridge the $238,000 funding gap. Learn more or donate here.