A new report says shelters for domestic violence victims are consistently over capacity and the length of stay has increased drastically over the past seven years.
The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence released a report Tuesday showing how victims used the services provided by its 18 organizations.
According to the report, domestic violence shelters across the state are full, with an average usage at 114 percent capacity. This is a 100 percent increase since 2008 when capacity was at 57 percent.
The cause of the increase, according to CCADV, was a concerted effort by the group to improve public awareness about services, coordinated outreach programs, and partnerships between law enforcement and service providers. Connecticut is one of only three states in the country to have these partnerships.
These efforts also included the La Vida campaign, which was an effort to raise awareness for a Spanish-language hotline launched in October 2014, the funding for which came from a federal grant.
The group also cited reductions to other services like mental health and substance abuse treatment, as well as a lack of affordable housing as increasing demand for shelter.
The average length of stay in Connecticut shelters has also increased from 26 days in 2008 to 43 days in 2015.
“There are a lot of complex issues related to domestic violence,” Karen Jarmoc, CEO of CCADV, said. “Working with families, victims and their children around how to manage those circumstances can be very challenging. So they’re staying longer as you sift through these layers and layers of problems.”
According to Jarmoc, a lack of readily available affordable housing, the significant trauma that comes with domestic violence and sometimes substance abuse are all issues that victims must navigate. “So it takes time,” Jarmoc added.
However, Jarmoc pointed out that CCADV is not requesting an increase in funding from the state, but emphasized the “value of a stable funding stream.”
Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Danielson, cited the “huge step forward” that the legislature made six years ago when it funded 24-hour staffing at domestic violence centers. While these services have not seen an increase in funding from the state since, Flexer said the data shows how the current level of state support is critical to make sure victims “have the tools and support they need to stay out of an abusive situation.”
According to the report, the 18 organizations served 41,446 victims of domestic violence in 2015, 35,507 adults and 5,839 children. During that same time, 2,323 victims — 1,165 adults and 1,158 children, the majority under the age of five — were housed in emergency shelters.
On average, the CCADV said, its groups spend $7 per day, per sheltered person. This includes mortgages, utilities, and staffing.
“Every single shelter is over-capacity, basically all the time,” Jarmoc said.
Barbara Damon, executive director of the Prudence Crandall Center in New Britain, said her center has averaged over the last six months around 126 percent occupancy.
“Today, we have a 22-bed shelter with 26 people in it,” Damon said. “That is fairly typical, even going higher than that. That means we’re using rollaway cots and sofas and whatever we can do to make sure the people are safe and have a place to stay.”
The report was conducted by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund.