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Domestic Violence Shelters Struggling After Budget Cuts


When Governor Schwarzenegger signed California's new budget, he used his line-item veto to cut spending on a variety of programs. In one move, he eliminated funding for 94 domestic violence shelters statewide.

— When Governor Schwarzenegger signed California's new budget, he used his line-item veto to cut spending on a variety of programs. In one move, he eliminated funding for 94 domestic violence shelters statewide.

In a section of North County that must remain unidentified, a domestic violence shelter is housed in a nondescript building. The place is protected by a series of locked doors and a video surveillance system.

At any one time, some 24 women and their children stay here.

A woman we'll call Jane came to the shelter a year ago. She says she had lived in constant fear of her boyfriend's violent rages.

"And it escalated one night, into him beating me in the head with a hammer several times, choking me unconscious," Jane recalls. "He stabbed me in the face with a fork. And when I finally got away to go to the police station, he threatened to take it out on my children."

Jane filed charges. Then she called a help line, and found out about this shelter called Carol's House.

"And me and my children came here with nothing more than clothes on our back," Jane says. "So enough was enough. If I hadn't come here I would be dead."

Carol's House opened in 2004. Since then, it's provided a haven for hundreds of women and children.

The shelter is a modern 2,800 square foot home with eight bedrooms.

Executive director Laurin Pause offers a tour.

"And we're walking through here into our general community room downstairs, and the women here can rest at night," Pause says. "They have group meetings, you know, group discussions, bonding and give each other support. And as you can see, it's right off the kitchen."

Pause says Carol's House is not a hotel.

Women cook their own meals here, and do all of the cleaning.

"The women during the day, their job is to find their next housing, go to court," Pause points out. "This is a working house. Everybody has chores."

The basis of the program is to help women recover from their abusive relationship. Pause says it's a long process. And Carol's House is the first step.

"Once a woman comes in here, there's a triage," Pause explains. "There's counseling to look at her mental health and emotional well-being. There's legal advocacy, so there's restraining orders, child custody issues."

Many of the women have lived under such repressive conditions, they don't know how balance a checkbook, or look for a job. Carol's House has a variety of classes where women learn these essential skills.

Carol's House also provides therapeutic daycare for children who've been traumatized by abuse.

Nonetheless, Governor Schwarzenegger eliminated funding for all of California's 94 domestic violence shelters, including Carol's House.

"It was, you know, with reluctance but out of necessity, that the governor had to use his line-item veto authority in any number of these areas," explains H.D. Palmer.

H.D. Palmer is deputy director for the state department of finance.

Palmer says the assembly sent the governor an unbalanced budget. He says the governor had to use line-item vetoes to get the budget in the black.

"And as he said when he signed the budget, he talked about it being good, bad and ugly," says Palmer. "And a number of the different reductions, that at the end of the day, were in that budget, fall into the ugly category."

With a single stroke of the governor's pen, Carol's House lost half of its funding. Other shelters around the state have been hurt even worse.

Jane thinks the governor has made a big mistake. She can't imagine battered women and their children being denied the chance to rebuild their lives.

"Ah, God, to sleep through the night without any worries? To watch the kids play and interact, and finally be happy," Jane says. "My youngest said, Mommy, 'I love living there.' And my older boy, said, 'Mommy, you're a much better Mommy now, we're happy.'"

The legislature will go into special session next month. Advocates are warning lawmakers if they don't restore funding to shelters, domestic violence could increase.

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