Julie Marsh, Domestic Violence Network, July 29,2011.

The Domestic Violence Network (DVN) hosted a press conference, July 29, 2011 to address the lack of emergency shelter space available for victims of domestic abuse in Indianapolis. The press conference was held at The Salvation Army Headquarters, 3100 N. Meridian Street.

Emergency bed space for those in immediate danger is facilitated by The Salvation Army Indiana Division. With this bed space at a critical low, Indpls. Mayor Ballard asked the DVN to look at a long-term solution for the city.

Connect2Help/211, reported domestic abuse related calls to the DMV Hub increased 36% from May 2009 to May 2011. With several days left in July 2011, there are more domestic abuse-related calls this month than there were in July 2010, and 30% more than in July 2009. The Salvation Army Social Service Center reported assisting 318 more individuals with emergency shelter and support services to date in 2011 than it did this time last year, and has seen an alarming 53% increase in young (17-22) adults served, oftentimes with children.

Susan Solomon, Divisional Social Services Director for The Salvation Army Indiana, attended the press conference and shared about how TSA’s shelter is being affected by these numbers. “Last week, we purchased new mattresses to lay on the floors and moved furniture to make room. We are reaching out to you, our partners, to say help us to help you in helping your neighbor.”

Betsey Whaley, Director of Housing and Outreach for The Julian Center cited economic shortfall, depletion of government funding and an end to unemployment benefits as possible reasons for the increase in numbers of those seeking shelter. “85% of people seeking shelter and assistance have less than $15,000 per year incomes, therefore it takes longer to get them into stable, sustainable housing.”

Mary Jo Lee, Chief Executive Officer, Alternatives, Inc., says, “In my 28 years of service, I’ve never seen it quite like this. It’s really frightening me as to what we’re going to see happening.” Alternatives, Inc. has seen a 22% increase in requests for their services.

Maria Larrison, CEO of Sheltering Wings Center for Women was also in attendance and made her plea, stating that Sheltering Wings, located in Danville, has seen a 200% increase in crisis calls and a 51% increase in those coming to their doors for help. For the first time ever, they are having to place women on a waiting list for shelter.

Jennifer Pope Baker, Executive Director, Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, shared some insight into the Women’s Fund is investing in relationship programs and economic empowerment to hopefully prevent women from entering into and staying in abusive relationships. Pope Baker says,”This doesn’t just happen to someone else, but to our families, our neighbor, our coworker. All of us need to be engaged to alleviate this problem.”

Collectively, these women are calling the public to come together and send financial support through the DVN. “We will make sure it gets to the agencies who are partners in ending this problem. It’s going to people – real people who are in life threatening situations,” said Betsey Whalen, The Julian Center. Their immediate goal is $30,000, keeping in mind that this is not a long-term solution but can provide approx. 370 nights of non-shelter housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence. “Getting people to safety is the most critical issue here. Saving lives – that is what we are about.”