As the only domestic violence resource in a county of half a million people, the Montgomery County, Tx., Women’s Center was repeatedly filled to capacity over the summer and continues to struggle with demand for nonresidential services that have risen by more than a third since last year, reports the Houston Chronicle. Calls to its domestic violence hotline have jumped 20 percent, and there is no end in sight. With more people seeking shelter and counseling services, it’s a fight for staff members to keep up. “It stresses the system – physically, emotionally, financially,” said shelter director Laurie Oliver. Advocates say the shelter’s operations are a microcosm of a much larger issue throughout greater Houston, as a growing population overwhelms limited domestic violence resources and county court systems.
Just 13 organizations in Houston and outlying cities provide emergency housing specifically for domestic abuse victims, totaling 741 beds. The number of felony family violence cases filed in Montgomery County rose from 264 to 286, an 8.3 percent increase, from 2013 to 2014. So far this year, 262 felony cases have already been filed, along with 480 misdemeanor cases. In Harris County, the combined number of domestic violence cases filed in 2013 and 2014 surpassed 20,000. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story: many domestic violence incidents go unreported. “It’s an epidemic,” said Debi Edge, the Montgomery County center’s director of client services. While the shelter runs at capacity and fields more and more calls and referrals, only one person in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is devoted to domestic violence cases. Harris County devotes just five.