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Women's Shelter May Get Help

July 12, 1990|URSULA WILJANEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Glendale YWCA's shelter for battered women, formerly known as Phoenix House, once again appears to be rising from the ashes of adversity.

The shelter closed down last week after it lost its county funding, which made up more than a third of its $150,000 budget. But Peter Whittingham, a deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich who oversees domestic violence programs, said a $5,000 check that could enable the shelter to reopen temporarily should be issued in a matter of days. The money is left over from last year in Antonovich's discretionary account, Whittingham said.

The supervisor, who represents Glendale, also will ask at a July 16 budget hearing for permission to spend $55,000 from his discretionary fund for this year, which totals about $500,000. That amount would partially fund the shelter for the next 12 months.

In addition, the Glendale Police Officers Assn. on Monday pledged to raise $60,000 for the shelter.

The Board of Supervisors must approve the allocation from Antonovich's funds, but the board generally does not prevent supervisors from using discretionary funds for projects within their districts, Whittingham said.

"I'm thrilled," Pax Adair, executive director of the YWCA, said Tuesday. "I'd always hoped, from the beginning, that the community in one way or another would rally. I almost wish we were still called Phoenix House. In a sense, this is like the phoenix rising from the ashes."

This isn't the first time the 11-year-old shelter has gone down. Six years ago its facility was destroyed in a devastating fire. Two years ago, an earthquake forced it to close for extensive repairs.

This time, it was the County Board of Supervisors that dealt the shelter a crippling blow. The board voted 3 to 2 on July 3 to cut off county funding--the only public money received by the shelter--retroactively as of July 1. Antonovich, who proposed an alternative that would have allowed the shelter to continue operating, opposed the measure.

Now the shelter could get more than the $60,000 it lost, money Adair said is sorely needed. "We never have more than we need. Running it on $150,000 is like running it on a shoestring," she said.

Glendale Police Officer Jim Lowrey, treasurer of the police officers' association, said the group's annual fund-raising campaign would kick off next week with phone calls to businesses and flyers distributed to residents. All of the money raised will go to the shelter, he said. County supervisors made the cuts in domestic violence programs after the county's Department of Community and Senior Citizens Services last month found a $320,000 shortfall in revenues to pay for the programs, said Larry Johnson, department assistant director.

Funding for domestic violence programs comes from a $19 surcharge on each marriage license issued in the county, and fewer people than anticipated are getting married, Johnson said.

The county's Domestic Violence Council, an advisory board made up of representatives from various public and private agencies, including shelters for battered women, met June 6 to try to find a way to minimize cutbacks.

The council's recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, much to Adair's dismay, was to cut all funding for the county's two transitional shelters--the Glendale YWCA's shelter and one in the South Bay--and thus reduce the amount cut from the budgets for the remaining 16 shelters, which are crisis shelters.

Crisis shelters house abused women and their children for up to 45 days. Transitional shelters house women for up to six months and provide services in addition to counseling, such as job training, Adair said. All transitional shelter residents have been in crisis shelters, she said.

Ironically, the Glendale shelter was a crisis shelter, called Phoenix House, until it closed for earthquake repairs in 1988, Adair said. The shelter reopened that year with a new name and a new purpose--to help abused women make the transition back into normal life and work, she said.

"One of the main reasons we changed over, and I will stand by this, is that 45 days is often not long enough for a battered woman to rebuild her life," said Adair, who was a resident of the shelter eight years ago.

Grants to the 16 crisis shelters were cut from $80,000 to $71,000 and grants to the two transitional shelters were cut entirely.

Domestic Violence Council Chairwoman Cheryl Ward said Monday that the state legislation allowing counties to fund shelter programs uses the term "emergency shelter" and does not mention transitional housing.

Ward, a senior assistant Los Angeles city attorney, said she would have liked to see the transitional shelters converted into crisis shelters rather than excluded altogether. "We need the beds," she said, referring to a 1988-89 county grand jury report, which showed that fewer than 10% of the battered women needing shelter can find it.

"This is only another reminder that there are not enough resources for domestic violence programs," Ward said.

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