HAVEN of Stanislaus falls back on fundraising as grants are cut for domestic violence victims

For more than four decades, HAVEN has supported survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Stanislaus County.

It helped that stable government grant funding often sustained the nonprofit organization’s services for women and children escaping abuse.

But recent changes to grant funding have forced HAVEN to fall back on community fundraising. HAVEN, or Healthy Alternatives to Violent Environments, was founded more than 45 years ago and has offices in Modesto and Turlock. It assisted 2,500 adults and children affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in the past year.

“We are going to be here,” Executive Director May Rico said. “We have been part of the community since 1977. But we are trying to figure out how to stabilize our funding base so we are not expanding or contracting at the whims of government funders.”

HAVEN has a Kick Up Your Heals fundraising event from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at The Century in downtown Modesto. Rico said it’s an opportunity to learn about HAVEN’S work, connect with people and enjoy drinks, hors d’oeuvres, a wine pull and silent auction. Advance tickets for the event are $50 per person. Tickets at the door are $60.

Rico said the funding headaches partly began with a windfall of federal money for these types of services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the COVID emergency faded, the one-time federal funding started to disappear, but the need is still there in communities. More service providers are now applying to a shrinking pool of funding, Rico said.

The executive director said HAVEN has been leaving staff positions vacant and restructuring. Grants that supported a robust housing program came to an end.

In December, a grant supporting legal staff who help women with financial need obtain domestic violence restraining orders for protection also is ending. HAVEN is preparing to lose two legal advocates and will continue the service with a program manager, Rico said.

A person in need can only turn to HAVEN or Family Justice Center for help with the restraining order process. HAVEN’s service reduction will likely delay restraining orders for spouses or domestic partners at risk of harm.

“We cannot meet the demand coming in now with three (staff members),” Rico said. “In December, we are going back to one. Next year it will be worse.”

Rico said many nonprofit agencies across the state are in the same situation. The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence is warning about cuts to Victims of Crime Act federal funding that supports domestic violence services, rape crisis centers, legal programs and human trafficking services.

The state Office of Emergency Services, which administers VOCA funds, is expecting a reduction of $105.8 million or more starting in July. The partnership says the funding cuts will have disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities in poorer counties like Stanislaus.

HAVEN, one of four agencies in the county receiving funds though VOCA, is bracing for a 40 percent cut to those grants, Rico said. It threatens to be a 40-percent cut to a funding source that was 25% of HAVEN’s budget last year.

In addition to staffing reductions, HAVEN’s budget this year assumes the use of $53,000 in reserves. About 75% of HAVEN’s budget is staffing for emergency shelter, support for victims of violence and sexual assault in hospital emergency rooms, crisis intervention, counseling and support groups, legal assistance and youth services.

Going into this year, the nonprofit was anticipating $4.2 million in revenue but the estimate fell to $3.5 million with the preliminary budget in July, Rico said.

The organization doesn’t have much choice but to attempt to make up for some losses with fundraising, though that source has never exceeded 15% of its annual budget. In addition to Kick Up Your Heels, the nonprofit will hold the annual In Their Shoes fundraising walk set for April 6.

Those interested in supporting HAVEN’s services can learn more at www.havenstan.orgview and view donation options.