Summit Advocates pushes local officials for ‘essential’ funding to help make up anticipated shortfall
FRISCO — Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault is urging local governments to step up their financial support as the group tries to cope with growing demand and decreased funding resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summit Advocates is a local nonprofit that provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other traumas, including emergency housing, rental assistance, legal help, crisis intervention and other resources. With the pandemic heightening unsafe situations at home for some — coupled with expanded outreach efforts from Advocates — the group is seeing more pressure than ever to meet the community’s needs.
“Safer at home was not safe for everyone,” said Lesley Mumford, executive director of Summit Advocates. “Being consigned to home certainly exacerbated unhealthy living situations for some folks. And while economic stressors aren’t the cause of domestic violence or child abuse, they can also exacerbate those dynamics going on in the home.
“We’ve also increased our outreach, which is allowing us to get a better sense of what is really happening in our community. … With more than 300 new people this year, that means more than one in 100 individuals in this county are accessing our services.”
Since the beginning of the year, Advocates has supported 363 new clients, compared to 319 in all of 2019. With more than a quarter of the year remaining, the group has already seen considerable bumps in the number of shelter nights offered (2,384 up from 1,844 in 2019), meals served (1,777 up from 780) and individuals given financial assistance (376 up from 76).
Mumford said the group has managed to keep up with growth in demand by adding a new staff member, increasing capacity at the shelter and more. But whether Summit Advocates will be able to maintain its current service level into 2021 remains to be seen.
The group is largely funded through bigger state grants offered by the Victims of Crime Act and the Domestic Violence Program, along with financial assistance through smaller foundations, individual donors and local government entities. But Summit Advocates is expecting a serious hit to its operating budget next year.
Summit Advocates operates with an annual budget of about $700,000, with state and federal grants accounting for most of the funding.
“Local government in total accounts for $58,500 of our total annual budget,” Summit Advocates Development Director Claudia King said during a presentation at the Dillon Town Council work session Tuesday, Aug. 18. “In addition to that, just over $156,000 is provided by local foundations. …
“Unfortunately, we have had some notifications from several local foundations and even some government grantors that funding will be reduced in 2021 and beyond. We also expect to see at least a 25% decrease in our fundraising and donations, which accounts to about $21,000 in operating expenses.”
The group is already looking at how the budget deficit could impact operations next year and into the future.
Mumford said that in addition to foregoing planned office expenditures and relying more on volunteers to keep things running, the group also would likely have to make cuts to the amount of financial aid they’re able to give their clients. Mumford noted that during the height of the stay-at-home order, Summit Advocates was spending around $10,000 a month in emergency financial assistance and rent support for community members.
“It would really be a dire circumstance to think of all these individuals and their dependent children who are looking to escape violent situations and not having a resource to turn to,” Mumford said. “Many people don’t want to interact with the criminal justice system, but they still want an opportunity for a healthier life. Having nowhere to call home would be a pretty scary situation for all those people who are displaced.”
Summit Advocates is pushing local governments to help make up the deficit and allow the group to continue maintaining its current level of service. Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon all support the group through annual grants.
Summit County currently sets aside $30,000 in organizational support as a budget item for Summit Advocates. The group is asking the towns to take a similar step, allocating funds directly to their budgets in lieu of awarding grants to provide a better sense of funding stability and proportionally increasing funding to help fill expected gaps.
“We’re asking them to increase their funding commensurate to the current rate, so they can help close this 25% deficit we’re anticipating,” Mumford said. “We are an essential service, and we need to be supported as such.”
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