JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Victims of domestic violence are being turned away from shelters in Missouri at a much higher rate than in neighbor states, a new report found. The audit concluded that requirements is state law are causing an inefficient and uneven distribution of funding to domestic violence shelters.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway released the audit on Monday, which notes there were a reported 45,253 incidents of domestic violence in 2017. The state’s 77 shelters — only two shelters for every three counties — reported that there were 28,182 unmet requests for shelter and other services.
“Victims of domestic violence shouldn’t be turned away because red tape is holding up shelter funding,” Galloway said. “Unfortunately, that’s happening in Missouri. A simplified and consolidated process – made possible by changes in the law – would cut down on the paperwork at the local level and make it easier to distribute funds to the shelters.”
Under current state law, to obtain funding collected by a city or county, domestic violence shelters must demonstrate to local officials that they meet a list of legal qualifications and also file an annual report with that local authority.
Galloway said these requirements for information burden shelters, duplicating documentation already filed with the Department of Social Services and other state agencies in order to receive state and federal grant funding.
Eighteen counties in Missouri did not distribute domestic violence fees to shelters in 2017, the audit notes. Those counties had 2,679 domestic violence incidents reported last year.
“The odds that survivors of domestic violence receive the help they need in Missouri should not depend on which counties they live,” Galloway said. “Lawmakers can streamline the process of getting money to the shelters. Let’s work together to help Missouri families.”
Galloway is recommending that lawmakers approve a law requiring funds be distributed at least once a year. She also wants to see the General Assembly roll back some of the red tape that is “burdensome and confusing.”
The audit also notes is that there is no state agency charged with oversight of domestic violence shelter funding. The decentralized manner that Missouri uses in distributing domestic violence fees means that funds may not necessarily be utilized where there is a demand for services, according to Galloway.
The centralized model used by at least three surrounding states – Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee – allows fees to be more strategically distributed based on need, Galloway said. A centralized registration and reporting system for shelters also would enable more consistent reporting and better oversight of domestic violence funds.
A copy of the report on domestic violence shelter funding is here.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.