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Domestic Violence Census: In KY, Demand for Help Outstrips Funds

A lack of funding and staff keep Kentucky's network of 15 domestic violence shelters, including this one near Lexington, from meeting all the needs of victims. (Greg Stotelmyer)
A lack of funding and staff keep Kentucky's network of 15 domestic violence shelters, including this one near Lexington, from meeting all the needs of victims. (Greg Stotelmyer)
February 25, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The raw numbers from a single day last fall shine a glaring light on Kentucky's inability to help a significant number of domestic violence victims.

According to an annual national census, on Sept. 16, Kentucky's 15 domestic violence shelters turned away 129 victims because of a lack of funding or staff.

That's nearly one in five adults and children who sought help that day.

Mary O'Doherty, deputy director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says the biggest unmet need was for emergency shelter, which was sought by 88 victims.

"They just needed a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep in," says O'Doherty. "And 14 of those requests for help were from children."

According to the census, conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Kentucky's statewide network of domestic violence programs was able to help 1,004 victims that day.

O'Doherty says most of the unmet need is in Louisville, where the domestic violence program shelter is usually full, forcing some to see if there's room in a homeless shelter. If that isn't possible, she says, the choices are few.

"If you don't have family to stay with, I think you're living on the streets, you're hanging out at the public library," says O'Doherty. "If you're lucky enough to have a car, you might be living in your car."

She points out that, over the years, government funding has been stagnant and hasn't kept up with inflation. The census found the majority of Kentucky shelters have had to cut staff.

"In many of our programs, there's only one person working at night, which is something we're very concerned about," says O'Doherty. "There always ought to be more than one person on at night at a domestic violence program. Our shelters are residential shelters."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY