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Domestic Violence Shelters Swamped

October 14th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

The tragedy of a murder-suicide on the Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay over the weekend points to a growing problem with the recession. Domestic violence is increasing. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Shelters for abused women across the state are over capacity and turning people away.

Lele is picking up the pieces of her life. Pregnant and abused, she roamed the streets homeless until she found this shelter.

“I lost my job in June and everything just went downhill from there,” Lele said. “Light bill couldn’t be paid, rent couldn’t be paid. We didn’t have food, I didn’t have food stamps. Just things like that tore us apart.”

Advocates say there is a link between rising unemployment and increased domestic violence.

“If the batterer is unemployed, which many are right now, then he’s home more of the time, he has the opportunity to batter more often, and the severity is often worse,” advocate Tiffany Carr said.

“My husband couldn’t find a job and he was really, really stressed about it,” Deborah, an abuse victim, said.

Deborah says when the economy soured, so did her relationship.

“I went from sleeping in a car to staying in the waiting room at hospitals,” Deborah said. “I slept where ever I could sleep that made me feel safe. Until I got here.”

Not everyone is able to find the help or shelter they need.

Last year, more than 7,000 women and children were turned away from shelters like this one because there was no room.

Another three thousand victims across the state have been jammed into overcrowded shelters.

The catch 22 is that while the demand for shelters is at all time high, funding is at it’s lowest level in decades.

Some Stimulus cash has started flowing to domestic violence shelters to help homeless women and children. Shelters say they are seeing people who have never been homeless before.

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