Giving is up for many nonprofits, but so is need
Holidays in a shelter that is busting at the seams can be tough: sleeping on cots in shared spaces, using communal bathrooms and missing family and friends.
“We have 80 to 90 percent women in the shelter right now and of that number, 80 to 90 percent have children,” said Amanda Meyers, executive director of the Wichita Family Crisis Center, which provides support to victims of sexual and domestic violence and sexual exploitation in Sedgwick, Sumner and Cowley counties.
“I know the kids in our shelter are so happy to be in a safe place. Still, it’s tough to be in a temporary home for the holidays.”
The average stay is six weeks while the victim works to establish a fresh start, from finding housing to employment and transportation. The nonprofit works with community partners and donors to bring as much normalcy as possible to the arrangement.
There will be a Santa visit, presents for the kids and a traditional, home-cooked meal.
That takes money, as do the shelter, outreach services, education and advocacy services that the organization provided to 1,695 clients in the past year. Still, they turned away 40 to 50 requests for shelter each month.
“Despite the generosity of our community, what’s been given cannot meet the needs we are seeing right now,” Meyers said. “We have seen a dramatic, dramatic increase in the need for our services and the need for shelter.”
The Wichita Family Crisis Center is included in the annual wish list submitted by nonprofits and charitable groups in Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey
Some on the list, printed in Sunday’s Wichita Eagle, are groups you might have received requests from throughout the year, for others this could be their one chance to make a mass appeal for donations.
‘TURNED THE CORNER’
Traditionally, the final month of the year is when nonprofits will receive as much as half of their annual donations.
If community giving indicators hold, the 22,900 Kansas entities listed by the IRS as 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including 3,195 in Sedgwick County, could be in for an uptick in monetary gifts this year.
The United Way of the Plains is in the final stages of completing its annual fund-raising campaign. Patrick Hanrahan, president and CEO of the organization, is projecting they’ll finish slightly above their goal of $13 million.
“This is the first year since 2007 where I really feel we’ve turned the corner and we’re more on an upward slope,” he said. “Over the last 10 years, it seemed like for every eight losses, I saw two increases. This year, it’s more like for every eight increases, I see two losses.”
The United Way of the Plains funds 82 programs and initiatives. The organization also works with
239 nonprofits to list volunteer opportunities for the community and has more than 1,400 agencies in its 2-1-1 database, which helps match people looking for help with services.
Typically, 75 percent of United Way contributions come from individuals, and Hanrahan has a message for those donors: “A lot of times you think, ‘I didn’t win the lottery, I’m not a millionaire so I can’t make a difference.’ Those $10, $25 and $50 gifts do make a difference, they make a big difference,” he said.
‘CONSEQUENCES OF BEING AT CAPACITY’
Wichita Family Crisis Center does not receive funding from United Way. It relies on government grants, foundation grants and gifts from companies and individuals.
Meyers said the organization has had a minor increase in funding this year that is outmatched by a major increase in need.
Sexual and domestic violence can be a hard cause for people to get behind, she said, because people think it’s only happening elsewhere.
This year, however, she believes local domestic violence deaths covered widely by the media make it difficult to ignore that it’s happening in this community. Included in the 2017 Kansas Domestic Violence, Stalking and Rape Report released by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation published in early November is the fact that domestic violence homicides doubled from 2016 to 2017. They accounted for 20 percent of the total number of homicides state-wide within that year.
There were 38 domestic violence-related homicides in Kansas in 2017, including nine in Sedgwick County. This year there have been six domestic violence homicides, according to a column published in the Oct. 31 Wichita Eagle and written by Gordon Ramsay, the Wichita chief of police.
The KBI report also showed the highest number of rapes reported to law enforcement in the past 20 years, and a 1.3 percent decrease in the number of domestic violence incidents. That decrease doesn’t align with what those working with survivors are seeing in the Wichita area, Meyers said.
Wichita Family Crisis Center saw a nearly 25 percent increase in clients served in the past year, she said. Her organization frequently collaborates with the only other domestic violence shelter in Wichita, Harbor House at Catholic Charities, but their combined capacity isn’t enough.
“We are at capacity nearly 100 percent of the time, even putting people in hotels as funds are available,” Meyers said. “We see the consequences of being at capacity.”
She recalls a woman who reached out for help in July and ended up at a homeless shelter because Wichita Family Crisis Center was full.
“Her boyfriend had been looking for her, saw her car in the parking lot and kidnapped her,” Meyers said. “He kept her for five days and beat her in a way that I’ve never seen in 20 years of doing this. That’s why our shelters are in a non- disclosed location with security precautions. The people we are helping are fleeing and their abusers are looking for them.”
Eventually, Meyers said, she hopes the Wichita community can add more confidential shelter capacity. Donations of money and items on their wish list this season will allow the Wichita Family Crisis Center to support more victims across their services. Volunteers are needed for activities ranging from office support to providing medical advocacy.
Another way to contribute, she said: help break the cycle of abuse. “We’re always helping domestic violence survivors on the back end, during the crisis or after the crisis has occurred,” she said. “More community awareness means more prevention. Talking about it with your friends, with your children and with your colleagues is going to help end domestic violence or at least ebb the flow. It’s not a taboo subject, it’s important to talk about.”