That’s the whopping number of lethality (domestic abuse as attempted murder) cases that Lisa Poppaw, Executive Director at Crossroads Safehouse, has seen in a six-week period during quarantine.
Compare that to the usual five or six cases that come through Crossroads in one year.
Nonprofits across Colorado are needed now more than ever to tackle domestic and child abuse, financial strain, and mental illness–the subject of a virtual town hall held yesterday afternoon by Colorado state Senator Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins), Rep. Jeni Arndt (D-Fort Collins), and Rep. Cathy Kipp (D-Fort Collins), joined by a panel of local nonprofit directors in addition to Poppaw: Robert Fallbeck, Executive Director at Voices Carry Child Advocacy Center, Kelly Evans, Executive Director at Neighbor to Neighbor, and Laurie Klith, Executive Director at The Center for Family Outreach.
The panelists fielded questions from constituents as well as the state lawmakers on how nonprofits are faring during the pandemic restrictions, and how they have been handling an influx of people in need of their services.
“So far, in April, our number was 192 households [that] received rent assistance–typically that number would have been about 45,” said Evans, whose organization provides housing assistance. “…We’re distributing a lot more cash to each household. So while the numbers of households served has about quadrupled, the cash going out is about six or seven hundred percent increase, and that’s because typically we’re able to fill smaller gaps, like $350. Right now, the breadth of this economic impact is such that people need more than $350. So our average disbursement is closer to $700.”
However, Evans was quick to voice her displeasure of the idea of a moratorium against eviction.
“I think the unintended consequence there is you’ve got a ton of really kind, small landlords, who then risk having to sell, and they could sell their duplex or fourplex in a heartbeat, and somebody comes in looking for a profit,” said Evans.
The quarantine doesn’t just put individuals in financial danger–it can also lead to violence at home.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of calls to our crisis line,” Poppow said, referring to the domestic abuse calls that Crossroads fields, in addition to being an abuse victim shelter. “We’ve seen about a 45 percent increase…”
As the domino effect begins to occur, children begin to suffer as well.
According to Klith, who deals with children and teens suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, or who are otherwise at risk, family drama is only making things worse for kids right now.
And according to the Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, financial distress can put significant stress on marital and parent-child relationships.
“[The children] are very lonely; they miss their friends, they’re very isolated,” said Klith. “Sometimes they’re in a family where there’s high family conflict, and they’re there 24/7. And so, trying to figure out how to get them the enrichment programs and the things that they can do to keep their anxiety and depression under control is very difficult…”
Not all of the nonprofits are receiving a higher number of cases right now, however.
For Fallbeck, who works with law enforcement and the justice system to perform forensic interviews on suspected child abuse and molestation victims, a reduced workload at Voices Carry is nothing if not unnerving.
“One of the difficult things about safer at home is that it’s not safer for everybody. Child abuse and molestation–last year–65 percent of all perpetrators were immediate family members. So the ‘stranger danger’ that we all grew up with is a little bit of a fallacy,” Fallbeck said. “Two percent of all the perpetrators for the interviews we performed last year were strangers; everybody else was either immediate family or extended family or a very well-known and trusted person.”
“With the lockdown, most children who are being abused are locked in with their perpetrators,” said Fallbeck. “So the problem has been that they are not exposed to mandated reporters, who are teachers, counselors; they aren’t seeing physicians, they aren’t seeing the people that might be able to get them the help they need. So our interviews have gone down, but our detectives and our caseworkers and our interviewers–our staff–know that the perpetration is going up…”
Fallbeck also pointed out that child abuse and molestation typically increase as economic hardship worsens–another signpost that points to increased child abuse now and in the future.
All four nonprofit directors echoed the same thoughts: that, as the need for nonprofit assistance surges, and financial pressures build on nonprofits, the support of the community is more meaningful than ever.
Another entity facing severe financial strain? The state, of course.
Kipp recommended a measure she is hoping will get on the ballot: the Fair Tax, which would cut taxes for 95 percent of Coloradans, while raising taxes for the upper five percent.
Arndt addressed the difficulty in prioritizing among inevitable budget cuts, saying she’s opposed to cutting Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), the retirement program for Colorado State employees, even if it means having to reduce money for a state park.
“We’re trying to buy a new state park inside of Colorado,” Arndt said. “That would be wonderful. But we’ve never had that state park… if we didn’t put in $10 million from the general fund, then the impacts wouldn’t impact any of the people that our poor nonprofits are serving. You cut PERA–that’s a liability that we have. “
According to The Colorado Sun, Colorado technically already owns the parcel of land intended to become Fisher’s Peak State Park. What’s at stake is the development and infrastructure to transform it into a veritable state park. And while the original bill was set at $10 million, the latest version directs $6 million to the improvement of Colorado state parks, with $4 million of that going to Fisher’s Peak.
Either way, “there will be millions of dollars in reduced funding for critical services,” Ginal announced.