Domestic violence shelter in Prince George’s struggling to stay afloat -- Gazette.Net


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Prince George’s County’s only shelter for domestic violence victims is turning to municipal governments and the county government for help keeping its doors open.

For years, private contributions to the Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County, a 55-bed nonprofit shelter with an office in Brentwood, have fluctuated due to the economy, falling to $49,000 in fiscal 2011 from $690,069 in fiscal 2010, according to the center’s filings with the Internal Revenue Service.

Shelter board president Carolyn Fleming Williams said she is assured the county is committed to keeping the shelter’s doors open and said it’s not in danger of closing. To get the shelter back on track, shelter board member Aneeka Harrison is asking the county’s 27 municipalities for a donation of $1,500 each to secure the shelter’s future, she said.

“This could mean the difference between them closing their doors and staying open,” Harrison told the Brentwood Town Council, on which she serves as vice mayor, during a vote April 14 on whether the town would make the $1,500 donation. Harrison failed to secure enough votes, as Brentwood council members cited the town’s lack of funds.

Prince George’s led the state in domestic violence cases in fiscal 2011 at 1,079 cases, according to a Maryland Judiciary report. The county also has had 52 domestic violence-related deaths since 2006, the second highest in the state compared to Baltimore city’s 57, according to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence in Lanham.

The Family Crisis Center annually receives money from the county through federally funded Community Development Block Grants and is budgeted to receive $30,000 in fiscal 2014, according to the county Department of Housing and Community Development’s annual plan. The majority of shelter’s funding comes through government contributions, which were about $1.12 million of its $1.24 million in revenues in fiscal 2011, according to its IRS filings.

Fleming Williams said private financial contributions to the shelter have dropped off, as they have for many nonprofits, since people are less willing to give during the economic downturn. She said Harrison is taking charge of finding new fundraising resources for the shelter.

Since 1981, the Family Crisis Center has provided emergency shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, as well as counseling and other services to help them return to a safe environment, said Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles, who resigned as the shelter’s executive director on April 16.

Miles, who had led the shelter since 2009, said she couldn’t comment on specifics about the shelter’s financial situation.

“It’s imperative to keep the Family Crisis Center open. There’s nothing else like it in Prince George’s,” Miles said.

County Councilman Will Campos (D-Dist. 2) of Hyattsville supports Harrison’s efforts, saying he has also worked to raise awareness of the shelter’s financial needs. He said county officials have been meeting with the center to discuss how the county can help.

“It’s a fine line to walk here since we can’t fund every nonprofit,” Campos said.

lrobbins@gazette.net