A federal grant that provided services for women and children dealing with abuse and neglect in closed polygamous societies has dried up.
At a meeting in St. George on Thursday, advocates learned that the U.S. Justice Department would not be renewing the Safe Passage Grant to do outreach within the polygamous communities.
"Too many applications and too little funding is what the letter basically said," said Judy Kasten Bell, the executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Council, which applied for the grant alongside the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
The grant would have sought hundreds of thousands of dollars to help victims of domestic violence in plural families. The Safe Passage Grant funded a number of social services, including case management, emergency housing, food, legal representation and counseling.
The Utah Attorney General's Office said approximately 1,300 people have received some kind of service since the grant began three years ago.
The $700,000 in federal funding ran out in June and ended the positions for case managers.
"This is very discouraging," said Elaine Tyler, director of the nonprofit HOPE Organization, a southern Utah based group that helps women and children leaving polygamous communities.
She said the Safe Passage Grant supplemented the work her organization did. Now, volunteers may be forced to do more with less.
"We've had three new families come to us for help in the last two weeks, and we don't have the money to help them," Tyler said. "They want school tuition, they want the first and last month's rent on a house."
Advocates have vowed to press forward.
"It means that we're going to have to scramble to try to help people with the resources we had before, which was not enough," said Paul Murphy, the Utah Attorney General's Safety Net coordinator.
The Safety Net Committee is made up of government bureaucrats, advocates and members of polygamous groups in a way of providing services to people in abusive situations in the closed societies.
Without the grant, anyone from a plural family seeking assistance will have to deal directly with state agencies, whom advocates hope are now more aware of the "unique" issues dealing with polygamy.
"I feel it was helping people. It's too bad," said Carlene Cannon, a member of the Davis Cooperative Society, a polygamous group based along the Wasatch Front. "I know our community will continue to work with the different agencies and the Safety Net Committee."
There will be some changes. Advocates said a domestic violence hotline may have to cut some of its hours. The DOVE Center, a St. George shelter, said it will cut some of its support groups and parenting classes that were offered in the polygamous border communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
"I'm not sure if we can start that back up," said center director Sherri Michel-Singer.
Within the last year, 15 women from polygamous communities sought shelter at the DOVE Center.
The federal grant also funded a full-time Washington County Sheriff's deputy to patrol Hildale and Colorado City. Despite the funding cut, Washington County Sheriff's Lt. Jake Adams said they decided to keep paying for the deputy to patrol."I believe it's paid dividends having our deputy out there," Adams said Thursday. "Within the community we've made inroads."
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