A person holding a protest sign outside
Domestic violence survivors and advocates rally in front of San Jose City Hall on May 31, 2024 to demand Gov. Gavin Newsom provide permanent funding for crime victim services. Photo by Joyce Chu.

Santa Clara County residents fleeing domestic violence may have a harder time finding safety come July.

Due to a slashing of federal funding for crime victims, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a nearly 45% reduction in money to crime victim services in the state. These cuts could mean the shuttering of domestic violence shelters, longer wait times for crisis hotline assistance and services like counseling, staff layoffs and as many as 19,200 unmet requests for shelter, according to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

Without funding from the state, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said the county could lose up to 40% of its emergency shelter and housing programs. In addition, 30% of rape crisis and child abuse services could be cut. Chavez rallied with a coalition of Bay Area advocates in front of San Jose City Hall on Friday to speak out against the cuts.

“We already know that these programs have been underfunded for years,” Chavez said at the rally. “So are you with me, that the state is obligated to bring this money to our communities?”

To make up for the loss of federal funds, the state Senate and Assembly released budget recommendations on Wednesday, which includes more than $100 million for the Victims of Crime Act program. But victim services providers say they need ongoing funding to ensure services are protected every year, as well as an additional $100 million in this year’s budget to maintain services.

“When you’re dealing with any victim of crime, there’s a window of opportunity to reach them,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen told San José Spotlight. “Sometimes it’s a few hours, sometimes it’s a few days, but if the window is closed, then you’re not able to serve them. I’m worried about us closing our windows to these victims.”

If funding isn’t made permanent, the DA’s office could lose between $1.3 million to $1.8 million a year. That means it won’t be able to staff its victim services center 24 hours a day, nor can workers accompany all victims to court. The office would have to cut services for several hundred people, Rosen said. In addition, cuts will have to be made to the Child Advocacy Center, which each year serves hundreds of children who have been physically or sexually abused.

Amid the county’s $250 million budget shortfall, the DA’s office is expecting other cuts, including the elimination of vacant job posts and expenses for services such as expert witnesses. The office has already had to pull prosecutors from other teams to handle a 142% increase in family violence cases over the last five years. The consequence is a ballooning number of domestic violence survivors whose fates are jammed in a backlog of cases.

Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, a nonprofit that provides shelter, counseling and legal support for survivors, has already started seeing the cuts and can’t provide attorneys to represent survivors in court this year.

“These cuts are devastating to our community,” Executive Director Colsaria Henderson told San José Spotlight. “We’re talking about services to an entire continuum of care.”

The emergency shelter Next Door runs is full. The organization recently paid for hotel stays for 17 families fleeing violence and provided rental assistance to ensure people don’t end up on the streets. But with funding cuts, it may not be able to serve everyone in need.

“We are part of the safety net fabric in this community,” Henderson said. “We get the calls when people don’t want to call law enforcement, and that is a huge piece to the work we all do. It is vital that these services are supported.”

Contact Joyce Chu at [email protected] or @joyce_speaks on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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