Alexandra House, Anoka County's only shelter and resource center for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, can operate as normal for two weeks of state-government shutdown, if it lasts that long.
But at mid-July, the nonprofit may decide to cut back on services and lay off staff, according to Executive Director Connie Moore. "Our plan is to hold out for two weeks, then re-evaluate," she said.
Three shelters for battered women shut down immediately after the state-government shutdown went into effect, and others are poised to close their doors.
More than Half of Budget Comes from State
Alexandra House operates a 35-bed shelter in Blaine and an office in Anoka where the group provides legal help and courtroom advocacy among other services. The organization has 50 paid staff and about 70 volunteers.
Financial reserves, though not as robust as Moore said she would like, are sufficient to support the organization for a short period. The group's contingency plan then calls for staff to consider options including cutting services and staff, and make a recommendation to the board of directors.
"State funding is extremely important," Moore said—providing 70 percent of revenues for the shelter and about 56 percent for the agency overall, taking into account both state funds and federal funds that state agencies administer. Alexandra House's annual budget is slightly greater than $2 million, she said.
The organization serves about 2,700 people per year. Many come from neighboring counties, but the proportion of Anoka County families, which stood at 42 percent last month, has been on the rise, Moore said.
Essential or Not?
Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled Thursday that state aid to organizations like Alexandra House is not essential during the state-government shutdown that began Friday.
Two coalitions to which Alexandra House belongs—the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women and the Minnesota Coalition for Sexual Assault—testified at a hearing Friday to ask a special master to recategorize shelter and services for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault as essential.
Fridley Police in Daily Contact
Alexandra House is an important resource for the Fridley Police Department, which maintains daily contact with the organization, according to Lt. Mike Monsrud.
Fridley police refer every domestic-abuse case in which they make an arrest to Alexandra House, Monsrud said.
They also forward all incident reports that involve domestic disputes, he said—even those that are no more than verbal arguments. Alexandra House staff then follow up with victims—usually women—to evaluate whether they can help.
"They do a lot of work for us. They do a lot of good work. They do a lot of work for victims," Monsrud said. "I don't know what we're going to do with the victims (if Alexandra House cuts back on services)."
Monsrud included in that the extensive support services Alexandra House offers, from shelter to help with legal paperwork. Without it, he said, victims of domestic abuse would have "a lot more difficult to make a clean break. ... They'd be forced to basically stay in those (abusive) relationships."
Another thing Alexandra House offers that Anoka County doesn't provide, he said: 24/7 service to victims and police.
County staff work weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monsrud said.
Anoka County provides about $25,000 per year to Alexandra House, according to Moore.
Another concern, she said, is whether the state will reimburse nonprofits for services provided during the shutdown.
"We're holding our breath, hoping the shutdown is short," Moore said.