Government shutdown causing issues for some local agencies

Government shutdown is causing issues for the Family Justice Center in St. Joseph County. // WSBT 22 photo

Thursday marks day 20 of the government shutdown. The impacts are being felt all across the nation, including here at home.

Federal employees and federal grant recipients are getting nervous.

The Family Justice Center in St. Joseph County falls into that second category.

Grants from the Office of Violence Against Women make up 40-percent of the Center's budget. It's already won those grants, but furloughed federal employees can't make the payments.

"The hardest part about domestic violence isn’t always leaving, it’s that staying gone element," said Jessica Castello, Family Justice Center assistant director.

Castello says our community gets thousands of calls for domestic violence every year. So she and her team work hard to help those survivors.

"They need counseling, they need benefits, they need safety planning and different assessments,” said Castello. “They need referrals to legal assistance and so we need to be able to be here to provide those services."

But without grant dollars from the Office of Violence Against Women, those services are in jeopardy.

"We have contingency plans and the ability to extend but not extend indefinitely,” said Castello.

Megan Elbin, who is one of the first faces survivor see when they're looking for help, says closing the center would be a blow.

"There are people who don’t understand the system, people who wouldn’t know where to go, how to file protective orders, how to access safe shelter, how to get food,” said Elbin. “So a lot of those things, they might be able to do them but it would be a whole lot harder."

Without those resources, there could be effects.

"Then they’re back potentially in a cycle of domestic violence that can be lethal," said Castello.

Elbin says there's something simple you can do to help places like the Family Justice Center stay open.

"I encourage people to write to their representatives,” said Elbin. “Let them know that this problem is affecting services like ours, which therefore can affect men, women, and children everywhere."

Castello says the Family Justice Center's community partners are pulling together to help get through the shutdown.

You can also donate directly to the Family Justice Center online.

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