Domestic violence and other forms of violence have been on the rise, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in mid-March and forced everyone to largely remain in place during stay-at-home orders.
The resulting ascendance of domestic violence victims seeking a place of safety has put a predictable financial strain on shelters around Michigan working to support victims.
The DTE Energy Foundation announced Tuesday it’s doing something about it.
The DTE Energy Foundation will award $1 million in grants to all 45 domestic violence shelters funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to help alleviate the significant financial and operational stress the shelter system has sustained due to COVID-19.
The grants – awarded in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month – will leave shelters in a better position to meet the unique needs of domestic violence survivors during the pandemic, and to continue providing the sanctuary, resources and support survivors need to find hope, build resiliency and heal.
This $1 million commitment comes less than a year after the DTE Foundation awarded $400,000 in grants to domestic violence shelters funded by MDHHS.
“At the DTE Foundation, our aspiration is to be a force for good in communities across Michigan, and achieving that aspiration begins and ends with developing stable households and families,” said Lynette Dowler, president, DTE Foundation. “That’s why we’re taking a stand and expanding our commitment to addressing the basic human needs of domestic violence survivors, including children, across Michigan. Through the DTE Foundation’s $1 million commitment – and partnerships with shelters statewide – we’ll continue to create new pathways to safety and independence for survivors, and ultimately a healthier, more vital Michigan.”
For many domestic violence survivors, the pandemic has worsened dangerous situations statewide. The increased time survivors and perpetrators have spent in their residences during the pandemic has, in general, expanded perpetrators’ access to survivors and reduced survivors’ opportunities to call for help.
“One in four women and one in seven men will experience abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetimes; that means our very own friends, family members and colleagues are represented in these statistics,” said Dowler. “Their stories often go untold, but today, through our voices and platform, the DTE Foundation once again declares this is simply unacceptable. We’ll continue to use our resources and influence to bring conversations about domestic violence to light, reduce the stigma associated with discussing this epidemic and speak loudly and passionately on behalf of those whose voices are often unheard.”
Domestic violence shelters in Michigan are struggling to meet surging demand for services and support, and to cover new expenses driven by the pandemic, DTE said in its release. These unexpected expenses include increased cleaning and sanitization; COVID-19 testing; heavier reliance on hotels and motels due to reduced bed counts required to meet safety guidelines (beds are down about 50% statewide); and cancelled/postponed fundraising, among other factors.
The DTE Foundation’s $1 million commitment was approved to help alleviate some of the financial and operating stress the shelter system has sustained since the pandemic began.
“COVID-19 has forced shelters and service providers to adapt daily to the ever-evolving and unpredictable nature of a global pandemic,” said Debi Cain, executive director, division of victim services, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “The steadfast support of our partners at the DTE Energy Foundation helps ensure local service agencies continue the important work of advocating for, and providing resources to, domestic violence survivors – and their families – throughout Michigan.”
Grants of $10,000 or more will be awarded to Michigan’s 45 MDHHS-funded shelters based on bed count. These grants will support critical expenses at each shelter and allow shelters to deliver holistic survivor-centric services and support that develop independence and empowerment. These initiatives include, but are not limited to employment, housing and transportation assistance, and support services that help survivors navigate the complex criminal justice and health care systems – two primary barriers to independence.
This funding will also help shelters develop and deploy domestic violence awareness and prevention initiatives, engage employees and members of their local communities, and motivate other organizations to support this important cause.
“We are very grateful to the DTE Foundation for its generous support,” said Sharman Davenport, CEO, Turning Point. “Last year’s funding was used to support children’s services, advocacy and counseling. This year’s funding is even more crucial because the pandemic has limited our ability to fundraise while causing our costs to increase. The grant we receive will allow us to cover new, unexpected expenses, including cleaning and sanitizing, and a greater demand for technology to enable children and parents to access online learning. This is important, life-changing funding, and on behalf of the survivors we serve each day, we thank the DTE Foundation for being an advocate and a positive change agent in our community.”
Dowler encourages the Michigan business community to join the DTE Foundation in the fight against domestic violence.
“As Michiganders blessed to be in positions to do so, it’s incumbent on us – our state’s business leaders – to continue to elevate conversations about domestic violence, remove the stigma attached to those conversations and drive positive, meaningful change within our organizations and across our communities,” said Dowler. “Whether through awareness and advocacy, employee support initiatives or financial contributions, I ask organizations statewide to stand alongside the DTE Foundation and do what they can to shine a bright light on domestic violence, and in turn create more stable homes, healthier families and a state that will lead our nation forward in this space.”