Domestic Violence Service Providers Say Need Has Increased Greatly During Pandemic, And Funding In Gov. Pritzker’s Budget Plan Falls Way Short


CHICAGO (CBS) — Domestic violence service providers across Illinois say $50 million in additional funding is needed to care for survivors.

They also say Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed 2023 budget falls short – way short.

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As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Friday, the need for these kinds of services have only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic — and survivors said funding could be the difference between spending a night in a shelter or staying with an abuser.

“We went through a lot, and we were homeless for a little while,” said domestic violence survivor Sarah McClarey. “At that point, the shelter looked very attractive.”

McClarey spent three months in the emergency shelter with her two young boys, escaping an abusive husband.

“You could be completely exhausted and trying everything, but just stuck,” McClarey said, “and so I could have been living like that forever.”

McClarey credits the WINGS safe housing program with turning her life around. But she knows it takes a lot of funding.

“If you divided the number of contacts we got – which is just under 33,000 – you know, that’s $10 to $12 a person, and $85 is a shelter night,” said Amanda Pyron of The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence. “The average need of the network’s emergency crisis response fund was $968.”

Pyron said that is why they asked for a $50 million bump in the state budget next year.

Advocates say the funding is needed in particular because providers across the state, such as Family Rescue Inc. on Chicago’s South Side, have seen increased demand during the pandemic.

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“We have a 36-bed shelter,” said Joyce M. Coffee of Family Rescue Inc.

But Gov. Pritzker’s proposed 2023 budget didn’t grant the $50 million. Instead, it granted just a $400,000 bump.

“I was very disappointed,” Coffee said, “angry actually – offended.”

Coffee says employee retention has been one of the greatest struggles during the pandemic.

“If the staffing erosion continues, the service gaps are going to increase,” she said. “We saw homicides almost triple in Chicago. The statewide helpline has seen significant spike in calls, whereas the Police Department here in Chicago – their calls were reduced for victims of domestic violence.”

And now, advocates, service providers, and survivors are pleading with local lawmakers to help revise that budget and push the state to spend more on survivor services.

“It’s worth the investment, you know, to help them get over that hump so the kids can get away from that situation – and also for the parents,” McClarey said.

We reached out to Gov. Pritzker’s office for comment on the proposed budget. As of late Friday, we had not received a response.

Meanwhile, the governor’s proposed budget does provide increased wages to many essential workers – but not domestic violence service providers. Domestic violence service providers say they should fall in the same category as the essential workers.

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If the $400,000 is split evenly across agencies across the state, that results in raises that are just a few pennies per hour.

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