ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WALA) - They tend to work quietly, not drawing too much attention to themselves. But now people who work at the domestic violence victims’ group called The Lighthouse are speaking up, calling for help from the community they’ve been helping for years.
“"The reason why we're not being quiet now is because we don't have that luxury,” Executive Director Joanne Sheils said.
The bulk of the organization’s money comes from the federal government. With things still shut down on Capitol Hill, she worries about the future.
"We are, at this point, functioning on reserves and we're grateful that we have those reserves, but they're being depleted really rapidly,” Sheils said. “I'm giving this agency two more weeks to function at the level that it's functioning at and then we're going to have to take very drastic measures and minimize the services that we offer to victims of domestic violence in Baldwin County and Escambia County, Alabama."
One of the essential services that The Lighthouse provides is being able to come down to the courthouse every day to meet with domestic violence victims. Last year alone, they met with nearly 800 people. But in about two weeks, that won’t be an option.
“They would not have the benefit of having a court advocate literally stand up there with them as they are side by side with their abuser and go through the court process, which can be very intimidating,” Cathy Wood, a court advocate, said.
And it’s not just The Lighthouse that would suffer if the shutdown persists. Police across the county are the ones who have to escort the victims to the housing sites run by the lighthouse. Soon, they might have to make other plans.
“Maybe some of the churches and civic groups can come together to find some kind of alternative help while we're dealing with this crisis,” Brian Middleton, assistant police chief in Robertsdale, said. “I've been here almost 25 years and I haven't had to face it yet."
Sheils remains somewhat optimistic the government will open up soon, but is having to prepare for a partial shutdown of her own.
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