Shelter from the storm

A recent piece in the Tulsa World by staff writer Michael Overall presented a moving look at the efforts of Tulsa’s two domestic violence shelters, Day Spring and Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS), to cope with rising demands for services. Like many others in the social services sector, Day Spring and DVIS are facing the real, day-to-day effects of the declining economy. As  job losses mount and financial uncertainty builds, the impact is being felt in growing levels of household stress. This can have explosive and violent consequences. The article focuses on Grace, a thirty-something, college-educated woman “wearing trendy high heels and a business blazer” who has been at Day Springs since late March.

“I knew it was putting a lot of stress on him, a lot of pressure,” says Grace. “The pressure turned into anger, and the anger turned into…” Her voice trails off without finishing the sentence, but shelter personnel confirm that she suffered physical and psychological abuse.

Both Tulsa shelters are struggling with “an unprecedented surge” of women seeking services that began in January and is showing no signs of abating. The shelters are operating at full capacity; Overall notes that “(w)ith a record number of women coming to the shelter — and with most of them staying longer — the overcrowding seems likely to get worse.”

But there’s at least some hope on the horizon. One component of the federal stimulus bill (ARRA) provides $225 million in increased funding to states to combat domestic violence. Oklahoma is in line to receive $1,773,156 from the STOP formula grant award.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice website, STOP grants are intended “to promote a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to enhance services and advocacy to victims, improve the criminal justice system’s response, and promote effective law enforcement, prosecution, and judicial strategies to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking”. Oklahoma will also receive an additional $156,250 to help support dual domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions.

I spoke with Marcia Smith, the executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault about how Oklahoma’s funds will be allocated. Under the terms of the grant, 70 percent of the state’s STOP grant funding will go to law enforcement and the courts, and 30 percent will go to victims services providers, awarded via a competitive allocation process. Shelter operators expect to use the stimulus funds to avert layoffs and the closure of satellite offices, and to establish an economic empowerment program for survivors of domestic violence.

We hear a lot of griping about the stimulus bill being just so much “pork” and “government spending out of control”.  In reality, for providers like Day Springs and survivors like Grace, it’s about nothing less than saving lives.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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