Citing significant cuts in state funding, combined with changes from state and federal agencies that would increase costs, Blue Ridge H.O.P.E. will be closing at the end of the month.
“This is a sad day for victims of domestic violence all across this area,” the Rev. Phil Goble Jr. said on Wednesday. Goble is executive director for the Greater Mount Airy Ministry of Hospitality (GMAMH), which oversees the shelter. “We have watched (the) economic landscape change so drastically in the last few months — especially with state and federal grants — that it has just been unreal.”
Specifically, Goble cited two funding changes which he said have made it impossible for the county’s only domestic violence shelter to continue operating.
“The North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission changed its funding strategy to award every agency about $55,000 and then extra money for specific target areas,” Goble said Tuesday. “We did not qualify for the targets and the $55,000 was almost $100,000 less than we received from GCC last year.” The grant also required Blue Ridge H.O.P.E. to expand its services to Stokes and Yadkin counties.
The North Carolina Council for Women also made changes, continuing its funding of the shelter for domestic violence-related work, but demanding changes in the agency before the council would release money for sexual assault cases. Among those changes would have been setting up a separate office and hiring more staff.
“The sexual assault grant would have been about $69,000,” Goble said.
Those two losses pulled nearly $170,000 out of the agency’s annual budget of roughly $230,000.
Another change, by the federally-funded Emergency Services Grant, would require the agency to find permanent housing for its clients within 30 days of the client entering the shelter — and that housing had to be in the county from which they had come.
Goble said, as an example, that if a domestic violence victim from Stokes County were in his shelter, Blue Ridge H.O.P.E. would be required to find her some level of housing there — be it an apartment or house — and then continue to offer her services there.
“We just don’t have the manpower to do this,” Goble said.
All of the changes come on top of the fact that the GMAMH had been facing the prospect of having to find a new location for the shelter because of fire code issues with the current facility.
“It just seems to have been one thing after another,” Goble said. Ultimately, all of those obstacles and funding losses became too much to overcome.
“This decision was not reached quickly or without research and due diligence,” said Bob Meinecke, chairman of the board for GMAMH. “We have applied for other grants — and been turned down. We have tried to have fundraisers — which did not draw well. We do not know what else could be done.”
“We appreciate all the help and support we have had. It is heartbreaking to know that on July 1, there will not be a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Surry County,” Goble said.
In addition to the loss of the shelter, its closing will eliminate seven to eight full-time and part-time jobs, Goble said.
Blue Ridge H.O.P.E. opened in April 2009. From April 2009 to May 31, 2012, the facility provided 8,606 nights of shelter to 160 women and 138 children, according to information supplied by Goble. Blue Ridge H.O.P.E. has done nearly 1,000 transports and close to 1,100 support group sessions.
“And all of those services were desperately needed,” he said in a written statement. “The Surry County Sheriff’s Office answered 1,108 domestic violence calls between 2010 and 2011. In that same two-year span, the Mount Airy Police Department answered 1,018 domestic violence calls. The Pilot Mountain Police Department, Elkin Police Department and Dobson Police Department combined to handle 191 calls in that span. That is 2,317 domestic disturbance calls in Surry County the last two years — and average of almost 100 per month.”
“The need is here for a domestic violence shelter,” Meinecke said. “There are programs that offer court advocacy and support groups, but they put victims in hotel rooms, not in a secure, confidential shelter. We pray that someone picks up this cause and works diligently to bring a shelter back to Surry County.”
Shelter workers will continue operations until Saturday, June 30. The hotline will be operational and materials available through that date.
“We pray for the victims of domestic violence, our staff and the community as this great haven of hope and help closes its doors,” Goble said. “We are so thankful and grateful to all those who have been part of Blue Ridge H.O.P.E.”
After the shelter closes, Goble said the nearest domestic violence shelters will be in Statesville and Alleghany County.
For more information on the GMAMH, contact Goble at 710-2530, write to him at 319 S. Main St., Suite 101, Mount Airy, NC 27030, or visit gmamh.org and send a note through the website.
Reach John Peters at email@example.com or at 719-1931.