The Women’s Coalition of St. Croix is making a desperate cry for help. It needs financial assistance so it can continue to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes of violence.
Clema Lewis, executive director, and Carolyn Forno, assistant director, said at this point they are looking at where and how to make cuts without eliminating essential services. Forno added they have depleted reserves and options.
They hope they can come to a solution without programs being cut and possibly having to close the emergency shelter. They might also cut office hours and be open four days a week and staff could be laid off.
Project Link, a program where people can get their GED, is already on hold because the Department of Education owes the coalition money Forno said.
Funds and grants from the federal government passed through the local Law Enforcement and Planning Commission have been on hold for the last three to four years because of audits in the local agencies and departments.
“Federal funding granted to the territory for community service agencies continues to be delayed at the local government level,” Lewis said. “The coalition and other public service agencies have been waiting on the disbursement of these vital Department of Justice and Department of Education funds for years.”
To date, the Women’s Coalition is owed $691,651 in funds.
They are owed $121,515 from the Violence Against Women Act and $375,305 from Victims of Crime Act. And $194,831 is owed by the Department of Education, more specifically for Adult Education and Family Literacy Act for Project Link.
Forno said there may be some VOCA funding from 2012 and they have submitted an application. She explained they have pieced together small grants for the shelter.
Forno said Gov. Kenneth Mapp has reached out to the coalition and they are moving forward with a meeting to get support from the government.
”It’s time for the government partners to step up and examine priorities,” Forno said. “We’re doing all we can, but we need help securing funding for the most vulnerable in our population.”
The coalition does its share of fundraising, holding an annual tennis tournament and the Women Race. Forno said they get a lot of support from the community through those events.
They raised $20,000 last month in the Women Race and they made $15,000 in the Tennis Classic in April. They do a holiday mailing in November seeking donations and the Closet to Closet resale shop generates funds.
Forno said volunteers and staff will be moving forward to increase memberships. Sponsors such as Marshall and Sterling, Sonya Ltd., and the Palms give consistently, Forno said. We could use a lot more big donors that give on a regular basis, she added.
The coalition has a staff of 14 full and part time employees and an administrative staff of four. There have been counselors’ positons lost and some they have chosen not to refill.
The Women’s Coalition of St. Croix has served the community since its inception in 1981. The agency dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence, sexual, assault, and other crimes of violence has been able to assist hundreds of thousands of clients through financial support, grants and fundraising efforts.
In 2014, the WCSC assisted:
– 1,184 survivors of domestic violence received supportive services;
– 243 survivors of rape received supportive services;
– 82 child survivors of physical and sexual assault received supportive services;
– 25 survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and their children, were housed in Sojourner House and other emergency shelter.
“Without funding, which is meant to assist those in need, people will continue to suffer and have nowhere to turn,” Lewis said. “In the absence of funding, those most in need in our community are denied services. Our community can and must do better for its people.”
Contact the Women’s Coalition at (340) 773-9272 for more information or to make a donation. Or go to wcstx.org, on Facebook at fb.com/WCSTX, and on Twitter @WCSTX.