Letters To The Editor – SafeSpace Funding

Letters To The Editor are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Jefferson County Post.

Submitted by: Kay Rutherford, Board Chair-SafeSpace

Again, the Budget Committee of the Jefferson County Commission has cut our funding at SafeSpace. For over forty years, SafeSpace has provided vital and life-saving services to Jefferson County. We provide this service to all victims of domestic violence at no charge to them but we depend on and need financial support from the counties we serve. At best, Jefferson County has only ever given us $8,000 a year and now the Budget Committee has cut us, again, to $4,000. One county gives us $32,000 for serving their victims. Up to this point in this fiscal year, SafeSpace has provided over 800 shelter nights to residents of Jefferson County needing shelter. This number includes victims: women, men and their children. We provide a 24 hour crisis line. We have a resident manager at our shelter so that victims can be admitted at any time. We have staff providing support to victims both in and out of shelter.

The law in Tennessee mandates that any officer responding to a domestic violence situation shall offer and provide transportation to the victim and their children to a “safe location.” You can ask any officer how necessary SafeSpace is to this county. We chose to locate our shelter in Jefferson County which means law enforcement has less travel time and expense to bring victims into shelter. We not only provide shelter but also provide Legal Advocacy in both Civil and Criminal Courts. Our director provides free domestic violence training to the Sheriff’s Department and any and all police departments, as requested. We provide a violence prevention program in all our schools free of charge. Cutting us $4,000 does little if anything to fix the over $3,000,000 budget shortfall of Jefferson County (which I say falls directly on the Budget Committee) but $8,000 isn’t anywhere near enough to help cover the costs of providing the services we provide, as it costs up approximately $500 a day to operate to operate our shelter. What committee chair, and some members of the Budget Committee don’t get at times is that we are not just a “non-profit agency” but we are an emergency and essential service to this county. We are grateful to committee members voting ‘no’ on cutting our funds. While I understand that other non-profits have needs, it is a travesty that the Budget Committee wants to give the animal shelter $110,000 to make sure these animals have a safe place to go, that they are fed and cared for, that they are not abused or neglected and only give us $4,000 to provide the same services to the victims, human beings, of domestic violence. Our plan is to bring this request before the full commission because it is now too late to work through the Budget Committee. I implore you to help us by contacting your commissioners and urging them to support SafeSpace.

Kay Rutherford
Board Chair-SafeSpace