Development of the System of Shelters for Battered Women in Minnesota
State Funding of Shelters for Battered Women in Minnesota
Shelters for battered women in Minnesota include facilities where women and children can be housed. These include hotels, rooms, safe homes, and motels. Shelters are available day and night. They provide security, meals, and accommodation for women and children. In these shelters, staff and volunteers ensure that women, most of whom were abused, get necessary help to escape from the pressures of life. Shelter services include counselling and emotional support. The government supports these shelters since most of them are independent not-for-profit organizations.
According to Schmalleger (2001), women in Minnesota started advocating for the establishment of shelters for battered women in 1970s. Shelters, financed by the state, gives refuge to women who have been battered and abused by their male relatives, spouses, or other males with whom they have been involved. Children of battered women are also taken in by the shelter. They are provided with the same services that their mothers are entitled to. States officially began to provide financing for these shelters in 1977, in this way increasing their number significantly.
Back in 1977 when the state began funding these shelters, money went directly to each shelter. The legislature also developed a system whereby these women received daily allowance to be able to live normally. Shelters were giving this daily allowance to women and were later reimbursed directly by county authorities. In this way, shelters become entitled to programs since there was no limit as to the amount of money they could spend. As such, the amount of money each shelter received depended on the number of women it hosted and the amount of time these women spent in the shelter.
The state eventually amended these regulations so that the only expenditure reimbursed by county authorities would be the one spent on food and security. The state stopped giving out uniform payments to shelters and limited funding only to maintenance fees. As such, some shelters received more funding than others, depending on the number of women they sheltered at a particular point in time. The program for providing shelter to battered women in Minnesota has experienced many changes. It was moved to the Department of Corrections from the Department of Human Services in the same year, 1977. The following year the program was again moved to the Department for Crime Services before it eventually ended up at the Department of Public Safety where it is to date.
Schmalleger (2001) claims that several amendments have been made regarding the extent of funding of these shelters. The new legislation states that whenever a new shelter is constructed, it receives funding from the state depending on the number of women eligible for general assistance. It is not known how many shelters are required in the entire Minnesota region. In many states, demand for such shelters has often exceeded supply. Many women who are in need of refuge are often denied service because not all of them can be accommodated. This is not the case in Minnesota as the number of shelters is sufficient.
Minnesota shelters have computerised their service tracking system through what has been referred to as Day One Program. This program enables authorities to know which shelters have free places and those that do not. In case a woman seeks accommodation in a shelter that is already full, the Day One Program allows the authorities to refer her to the shelter in Minnesota that has free place. In case the available place is far away, the Day One Program provides transportation for the woman. The program, supported by Allina and United Way, has continued to help many women who would otherwise be denied accommodation. However, transporting a woman to a shelter that is too far away may create inconveniences to the woman, especially if she has to stay in a particular place for the sake of job or court hearing.
It has been identified that there are certain areas in the state of Minnesota that need additional shelters. One of these regions is western border of the state. The other region is the metropolitan area of Twin cities which has continued to grow very fast. Counties in the south-western part have also been identified as those in need for additional shelters for women. Women from counties that lack women shelters are allowed to seek accommodation in other counties or use Day One Program to find free places in other shelters within the state (Anagnoson et al, 2011).
Reason for Women to Seek Refuge in the Shelter
Studies have shown that abuse is not the only reason for women to seek refuge in the shelter. Drug abuse and depression are some of the other reasons that make women seek shelter. Some of these women are being kicked out of their housings because they are not able to pay rent. The other reason that makes women seek refuge is unemployment. Some of women do not have jobs and have not had one for over a year before seeking refuge. Many of these women end up staying longer in shelters because they are unable to find alternative housing they can afford. This is because there is shortage of affordable housing for low-income earners in Minnesota.
According to survey carried out by Day One, some women live in shelters to escape from domestic abuse, but the rest is there for various reasons including inability to pay for housing. When a shelter accepts a woman, it assigns a staff member to work with the woman in order to come up with an action plan for her during her stay at the shelter. This action plan addresses the issues that the woman identifies as being important in her life. This is done so that she would be able to work them through and get proper housing in the shortest time possible. The staff at the shelter will help her meet these objectives by offering psychological support and advocacy.
It has not been established whether efforts made by shelters have actually brought any benefits in the past or whether they have helped in any way to reduce domestic violence. However, research has shown that women who have previously been in shelters are less prone to be abused again. This, however, depends heavily on woman’s own initiative and whether or not she managed to take control of her life after returning from a shelter. Nevertheless, many have argued that the existence of these shelters deters violence because women have a place to run to when they are in danger.
Women have also been known to contact shelters for information and help even without necessarily seeking refuge. These shelters have also provided advocacy services for women who need them. They have also increased awareness in the community about gender violence and the ways of how it can be reduced. Shelters contribute to the reduction of instances of domestic violence in the long term as they help women to change their lifestyles and keep themselves and their children safe from abusive partners. As much as it is generally agreed that staying in shelters prevents women from becoming victims of abuse in the future, it is not very clear how long a woman needs to stay at a shelter before she can benefit from this.
The Goal of Shelters in Minnesota
The main aim of these shelters in Minnesota was to provide protection to women who had become victims of abusive marriages or relationship. Some women who are housed at these shelters may not be abused at the moment they turn to shelters for help, but they may have been victims of abuse in the past and need to heal. Other than providing these women with housing and food, these shelters also provide support and organize workshops and trainings for women. Some of these shelters even make it possible for these women to be trained in criminal justice (Schmalleger, 2001).
Apart from getting finances from the state, shelters also are funded by local contributors, federal funds as well as volunteers. Some shelters still rely entirely on funding from the state. Minnesota has a total of 25 shelters that are residential, 33 motels or hotel networks, and 15 safe homes in the areas of the state that are less populated. Many women who seek refuge are put in shelters with licensed bed capacity of 653. Some of the shelters, however, accommodate way more women than the licensed capacity allows. There are also shelters that specifically accommodate a certain social group. There are homes that only take in Asian-American women, others only admit Native Americans, while others accommodate only Hispanic women.
Therefore, it is clear that the main benefit of a shelter is the refuge it offers to women. This is because it is not clear how effective these shelters are in solving socio-economic problems that these women have. This is because women who go to shelters have far reaching challenges that are beyond abilities of staff to deal with. For example, not all staff members at these shelters are trained to deal with problems that are health related. Again, women usually stay in the shelter for about three weeks only. This time is not enough for the staff to solve their problems. On the other hand, if women were allowed to stay longer, those with serious emergencies would be denied place at the shelter (Williams, 1996).
It has been identified that for many women shelters become their last resort after all other ways of dealing with abusive partners or other problems have failed. This means that big pressure that is often placed on these shelters would be reduced if other methods of dealing with domestic violence functioned properly. One of the social justice systems which include criminal justice system of the state has been blamed for failing to protect these women. Studies show that many of these women contacted the police only to suffer more violence from the hands of their spouses. This does not mean that the police are ineffective, but it shows that these women suffered more than those who did not contact the police.
In conclusion, the system of shelters for battered women in Minnesota is well developed and receives more funding when compared with other states. However, lack of low-income housing has led to an increase of number of women who seek refuge creating financial difficulties for these shelters. The situation has been worsened by the introduction of funding cup and per diem system of funding. There is a need for states to find alternative funds for supporting existent shelters and building new ones in the long term.
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