A central Arkansas shelter for abused women and children says it's facing serious financial problems that threaten its ability to provide services because of the ongoing federal government shutdown.
Board members from Women and Children First said the agency relies on federal funding to reimburse a large portion of its expenses.
Daniel Robinson, chairman of the agency's board, said about $60,000 in federal funding is owed but on hold because of the shutdown. Meanwhile, the agency has accrued about $40,000 in debt.
"They've shut down so now we're not getting paid back anything," he said. "We are suffering financially. We are in a cash crunch right now. We are doing everything we can to work through it, but it is a serious problem ... There is a lot of fear of what the future brings."
Cindy Murphy, vice chairman of the board, called the situation "exceedingly dire." Robinson said the shelter is continuing on a "day-to-day" basis and it's not clear how long the existing funding will keep the operation open.
Robinson said he couldn't say what services might be cut first if the funding problem continues. One delayed grant covers a program through which the shelter pays the rent of families moving from the shelter to their own home, but Robinson said cutting that is inconceivable.
"That means kicking 16 families out and making them homeless," he said. "If victims don't have anywhere to go, they go back to their abuser. And that's the last thing we want."
Another board member, Vicky Williams, credits Women and Children First with saving her life and the lives of her children. Speaking at a news conference on the financial problems, Williams recounted how she ended up at Women and Children First with her two daughters and son. She said it helped the family escape her abusive husband who had repeatedly beat her.
Williams credited the shelter with giving the family a fresh start, from which they blossomed. She said all three of her children have grown into happy and successful adults, including the son: D.J. Williams, the former Arkansas Razorback tight end who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL.
"If these shelters are not able to protect these women and children, if we are not able to keep these doors open, they may not have a tomorrow," Williams said. "We can't shut these shelters down. I mean it's life or death. It's very dear to my heart because I lived it, y'all. They've got to have a safe place to go, and we've got to keep these programs going."
Robinson said the group is hopeful a deal comes through soon, though it's not known how long it would take afterward for the funding to arrive. About 1.4 million charities and nonprofit groups receive some form of government funding.