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Nation’s Largest Domestic Violence Shelter Struggles With State Cuts

September 14, 2009

PHOENIX - The fate of Arizona women and their children fleeing assault and abuse rests with the kindness of strangers these days. The Phoenix Sojourner Center, the country's largest domestic violence shelter, is seeking donations from foundations and the public to overcome significant cuts in state funding.

The Center's executive director, Connie Phillips, says it's a daunting task to maintain the 280-bed emergency shelter in these tough economic times.

"It is our commitment that we will keep those beds open. But in order to do that, then we have to make up those shortfalls. That shortfall this year we anticipate at 525,000 dollars."

The center has launched a fundraising campaign called "Save a Bed."

Despite its current financial challenges, Phillips says, Sojourner Center plans to expand.

"Our three-year strategic plan is to open up 44 more beds at our second shelter location. The building just needs some rehab work, and then we obviously need the resources to be able to support the staff that's necessary."

Even at today's reduced funding levels, the state still supplies 40 percent of the budget for the Sojourner Center. Phillips considers it an appropriate use of tax dollars.

"We don't look for donations for the police department or for the fire department in order to have firefighters or police officers to respond. I think that having emergency shelter available, that there's a role for government in that."

Phillips says 20 percent of the women and children seeking shelter are currently being turned away. She says even more women would likely be fleeing their abusers these days, but are afraid they won't be able to find work to support themselves and their kids.

Tax-deductible donations can be made online at sojournercenter.org

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ