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SAFE Budget Testimony 11 30 10 FIN

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Testimony of Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment (SAFE), Inc. By Elisabeth Olds Before the Committee of the Whole Public Oversight Hearing on the Mayor’s FY11 Budget Gap Closing Plan I respectfully submit this testimony as a supplement to the testimony provided by the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence on behalf of the DC Victim Services Alliance (of which SAFE is a member) to illustrate the impact of the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts to the Office of Victim Services on SAFE’s ability to
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    Testimony of Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment (SAFE), Inc.By Elisabeth OldsBefore the Committee of the WholePublic Oversight Hearing on the Mayor’s FY11 Budget Gap Closing Plan I respectfully submit this testimony as a supplement to the testimony provided by the DC CoalitionAgainst Domestic Violence on behalf of the DC Victim Services Alliance (of which SAFE is a member) to illustrate the impact of the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts to the Office of Victim Services on SAFE’s ability to provide life-saving services to victims of domestic violence in the District of Columbia. SAFE is aprivate non-profit domestic violence organization that provides crisis intervention services, including legalinformation, immediate crisis shelter and transportation to a safe location, help with emergency legalrelief, and safety planning for over 5,000 victims of domestic violence in the District each year. SAFE,Inc. respectfully opposes the Mayor’s proposal to reduce the budget of the Office of Victim Services l ocalfunds appropriation by ten percent (10%) and any future cuts to this particular agency.Since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008, SAFE has experienced a noticeableincrease in the number of victims seeking services. Our client population grew by 11% from 2007 to2008, 20% from 2008 to 2009, and an enormous 36% between 2009 and 2010. We’ve seen an escalation in not only the number of victims seeking assistance, but the dire nature of their situations.The violence they are experiencing is more severe as reported to us, and their options are fewer basedon loss of employment, lack of employment opportunities, and lack of any significant option foremergency shelter, affordable housing or rental assistance. The desperation that our front-line advocatesare seeing in the victims with whom we work and their high numbers are a clear indication that theproposed budget measures are dangerous to public safety and ultimately more costly in the long run. Repeated cuts to OVS’s baseline budget have a dramatic impact SAFE’s ability to maintain ourcurrent services as well as our ability to make those services meaningful. SAFE, Inc. works with morevictims each year than any other agency in the city with the exception of the Metropolitan PoliceDepartment. Due to the lack of immediate emergency shelter, SAFE is also the only option for a safeplace to go after a violent assault for most victims in the city. SAFE has agreements with the Metropolitan    Police Department and the District’s Child and Family Services Agency whereby their personnel contactSAFE any time they encounter a victim of domestic violence in need of these services, usuallyemergency shelter or legal information about critical next steps. The services that SAFE provides areakin to a first-responder and can mean the difference between safety and serious assault or homicide.Because we function as the emergency room, if you will, SAFE does not have the dubious luxuryof turning victims away or reducing our hours of service. Instead, we will be forced to reduce the level ofservices each person receives to such a degree that they will not be safe from further abuse. A courtorder is merely a piece of paper without the knowledge of how to enforce it, or the ability and resources to physically remove oneself from harm’s way. We will also not be able to provide additional resources to victims in high risk situations without doing so at the expense of other victims who also have legitimatesafety concerns. If left unaddressed, victims in non-high risk cases will eventually become high riskcases, having used tremendous public resources on that painful and dangerous path. Without theconstructive and meaningful assistance of victim services programs, victims of domestic violence willcontinue to rely heavily on public entities like the Metropolitan Police Department, public emergencyrooms, and the Courts to remedy assaults that will occur more often and repeatedly in each householdaffected. Without tailored resources for victims at high risk of serious assault or homicide, the end resultcan be catastrophic and costly.Placing the burden of our stalled economy and the District’s budget concerns on victims ofdomestic violence is a dangerous solution that may create a small short-term savings but a high humancost and ultimately long-term expense to the District in terms of repeated calls for service to police, andincreased levels of ongoing child abuse and neglect in homes where victims and their children have noway out. Maintaining funding for the Office of Victim Services and identifying a long-term sustainablefunding mechanism for DC victim services will ensure SAFE, Inc. can continue to provide life-saving services in a stable and productive way for the District’s most vuln erable residents, as well as a costefficient and effective way to provide essential support to city agencies serving the same population. Wemust maintain the ability for victims to find a way out of their violent homes and the Office of VictimServices is a vital partner in that effort. It is for these reasons that we respectfully ask you to reject these    cuts in funding proposed for the Office of Victim Services, and instead consider raising taxes andadditional revenue enhancements to provide this revenue. Thank you for your time and attention to thisissue.
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