Weeks after fleeing an abusive relationship, a 49-year-old woman in West Virginia was ready to move out of a shelter and into a trailer with a security deposit provided by a nonprofit organization that relies on federal funding. The partial government shutdown scuttled her plans to start a new life, reports the Washington Post. The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center has cut all extra spending and client expenses to prepare for the Justice Department’s freezing of its stream of federal grant money. The center’s ability to help domestic violence victims pay for prescriptions was gone, and home visits to people in rural areas were canceled. There could be no more free rides for women to get to new jobs, leading to one woman’s firing.
The shutdown belt-tightening meant the woman who escaped to West Virginia from Baltimore would no longer get help with her trailer’s security deposit, meaning she continues taking a spot at the shelter while more than two dozen women seeking refuge from potentially dangerous situations sit on a waiting list. The shutdown has led organizations that help victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse to cut back on lifesaving services, furlough staff and turn people away from shelters. Many groups are reliant on federal funding that is scheduled to stop on March 1. While many Americans have not yet experienced a direct impact as a result of the government shutdown, at domestic violence shelters, any interruption of funding could cut off services that keep female victims and their children safe from potentially fatal violence. Shelters can provide escape at perilous moments; having to turn people away can be a matter of life and death.