Government shutdown could close Mid-South domestic violence shelters, experts say

WATCH: Government shutdown could lead to increase in homicides, experts say

Domestic violence shelters are the latest group to be affected by the partial government shutdown.

Several shelters that serve bettered men, women, and children in the Mid-South are at risk of closing down due to a lack of funding.

"I really didn't have much money because he was controlling the money. I spent a couple of days in the car and someone suggested I go to the YWCA for help,” said 21 year-survivor Lumbria Brown.

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It's stories like that that worry Cassie Rutledge. She serves 500 clients a year at a domestic violence shelter in West Memphis.

"Statistically we know it takes seven times for a victim to leave their abuser before they leave for good,” she told FOX13.

She's concerned if the government shutdown drags on, victims will have nowhere to turn.

"Without the shelter and support services, we will see an increase of death-related events due to abuse, children going into foster care system because of abusive situations because the moms are not able to flee the event," said Rutledge.

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FOX13 met her inside a local church Monday to protect the identity of local safe houses. There, she explained that 90 percent of the shelter's budget comes from the federal government, the common structure of most shelters.

"We have a limited amount of funding we use to pay things up front and then we submit that to the Department of Justice for reimbursement,” Rutledge said. “They reimburse us, then we continue to operate. After that, then we are going to have to look at scaling back our services even more, which could result in potential layoffs of staff and going to a skeleton crew.

“Which is very alarming because we are already short-staffed. We are a very small shelter and we operate 365 days-a-year, 24 hours-a-day."

There are 38 shelters in Arkansas that could be impacted, 55 in Tennessee, and 15 in Mississippi.

Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence said rural shelters are likely to be hit the hardest and the fastest because they don't have as many community partners to fall back on.

The State of Tennessee, they said, only supplies $1 million to be divided among the 55 shelters through the marriage license fee.

"I had been shot, pushed out of a moving car, hit in the head with a hammer," said a former victim. "If it hadn't been for them giving me that chance to get on my feet, I would have probably ended up losing my job because I would have been homeless, or ended up back with him, where I would have ended up dead."

She hopes the shutdown will end immediately before it becomes dangerous and has a message for lawmakers.

"At any given time, this could be your mom, your sister, your daughter, your niece. It could be any one of your family members that is dependent upon this funding."

Congressman Steve Cohen sent FOX13 the following statement regarding the possible closure:

"I am very concerned about the effect the government shutdown could have on ongoing funding for Memphis' domestic violence shelters as well as on all of the federal employees who have been furloughed and those who are working without pay. I'm concerned with its impact on critical safety net programs for our most vulnerable citizens, including those who rely on food assistance programs like WIC and SNAP; and for those trying to buy homes with federal housing loans that aren't moving forward; and for those counting on IRS refunds whose payments  may be delayed; and for those seeking justice in our federal courtrooms. This Trump shutdown is hurting hundreds of thousands of people including many in the 9th Congressional District."

Most Mid-south shelters have enough funding to last them through the end of the month.

The shutdown is showing no end in sight.