Giv­ing is up for many non­prof­its, but so is need

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MELINDA SCHNYDER

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

coun­ties.

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.”

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