The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

June 25, 2013

Where will they go?

OTTUMWA — Women who have been victimized are getting both worried and angry.

The Ottumwa Women's and Crisis Shelter will close. The women living there, and in some cases, their children, are being told to find a new place to stay.

"I understand why they'd be angry," said Cheryl Brown, the executive director.

Budget cuts have resulted in a redesign that offers fewer services in some communities. About half the state's 20 domestic violence shelters are expected to close. The technical phrase the state has used calls the redesign "going regional." All the services are there, the state says. But the services will be available only by traveling over a specific geographic area — locally, that's Wapello and 10 other counties. So this "region" will still have a shelter for women and their children in danger from domestic violence — they'll just have to go to Oskaloosa to stay there.

"I don't understand because we need it more down in this area than up there," said State Representative Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa. "It's really unfortunate that we have to give up these things; I know Cheryl worked hard."

Not all of the victims are aware of that, Brown acknowledged. Some of them seem to feel the decision was made locally to close down. It wasn't, she said.

"It may decrease the cost for the government, but it increases the cost for people who need to access these services," said Gaskill.

Those costs for women who do find safe space in Mahaska County can be more than financial, Gaskill said. They may need to pull their kids out of Ottumwa schools, give up a job where they have some seniority or end up commuting daily to a job 30 miles away instead of 3 miles away.

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