The business of crisis aid

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4.7 million women experience physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner each year. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 10 million children are victims of domestic violence each year, with 90% of them witnessing the abuse. As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is an appropriate time to examine what this means for our local community.

Established in 1975, the YWCA’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline, the only one in Sonoma County, is the most direct route to support families in need. The number of calls to our hotline has increased by an amazing 46% in 2021 compared to 2020. Safety planning and strategies to ensure emergency response are at the forefront of every call we receive (the number to call is 546-1234). When needed, we provide a confidential, safe home, the only one in Sonoma County for families seeking refuge from harm.

YWCA Sonoma County’s unique role in our community has never been more evident. And given the tremendous need, you may be wondering, “How is the agency funded?” The answer is almost as complex as the situations our clients face when they focus on healing their trauma. For nearly 40 years, YWCA Sonoma County has received contracts from the California Office of Emergency Services. A little-known bill, SB 1246, would provide funding based on a percentage of the fee couples pay when applying for marriage licenses. Yes, you read that right: when applying for marriage license, couples invest in domestic violence services. Emergency shelter beds at YWCA are funded in part by the City of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. YWCA navigators who meet victims/survivors seeking help at the Family Justice Center are only partially funded by CalOES as permitted by the county.

While these revenue streams form the foundation of our operational domestic violence support, they are only part of the budget for our services. There is no charge for living at our shelter, which has provided 3,122 overnight stays for families fleeing violence in the last year alone. Currently, 19 children and eight adults call our home “home”.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month offers the community an opportunity to invest in YWCA in recognition of the investment we have made in our community for more than four decades. Learn more at ywcasc.org.

Madeleine Keegan O’Connell is the CEO of YWCA Sonoma County.

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