A major hit to YWCA


When a domestic situation threatens to spiral out of control into explosive violence, rescue response time is of the essence. Any delay in emergency crisis intervention can produce fatal results. The YWCA Battered Women's Shelter in Toledo knows too well what can go wrong when a homefront deteriorates rapidly and help comes too late to those who desperately need it.

So any potential reduction in the shelter's services, especially its 24-hour, toll-free, crisis hotline, comes with no small measure of alarm. Some community assistance should never be compromised, which appears to be the case with federal funding cuts to the shelter.

When a new appropriation formula was employed to award the funds and a new state agency took over distribution of the $2.3 million in grant money, dozens of social services programs got the short end of the stick.

With previous funding caps lifted, agencies competing for a slice of the pie found themselves up against a new ranking system that determines which agency's funding requests will be honored in full or in part. The arrangement, instituted by the Office of Criminal Justice Services after assuming the funding responsibility from the state's Department of Job and Family Services, necessarily leaves some agencies out of the loop.

Of the 128 agencies applying for the federal dollars, only 38 of them received money. The YWCA was not one of them, losing $63,500 of a proposed yearly budget of about $485,000. But that loss forced the shelter to lay off two full time staffers and over half a dozen part-time workers.

That manpower kept the crisis hotline in operation, serving not only the Toledo area but surrounding counties like Fulton, Ottawa, and Monroe in southeast Michigan. It was and is an essential link to emergency intercession when home becomes more hell than haven.

The ranking system that allows some agencies to receive funding sums requested while other, lesser-ranked groups go empty handed needs to be revisited by the justice services office to avoid the shortsighted outcome that cuts some organizations off completely.

Adelante is another local social services agency that received no money from the federal grant program this year. As a consequence, it may need to trim back programs offered to its primary clientele of Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Patty Neiman, executive director of the YWCA shelter, says remaining staff members will do whatever it takes to keep the shelter open weekends but manning the 24-hour hotline may prove more difficult to achieve in the next few months. Shutting down the phone line could be a consequence.

That should prompt a call to arms for an urgent infusion of funds to keep the regional lifeline open to the public around the clock. The matter can't wait long for resolution any more than a domestic violence cry for help can be put on hold.