Vera House at a crisis point as caseloads grow and funding shrinks (Syracuse.com Letter to Editor)
Vera House is facing its first budget deficit in our 44-year history. The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered a toxic combination of factors that have been financially devastating.
The first challenge is that the need for our services has never been higher. Severe, complex violence has risen during the pandemic. Anecdotally, we’ve seen increases in strangulations, torture and extreme intimate partner sexual violence, all of which are significant risks for lethality.
Before the pandemic, many of our calls were from victims and survivors looking for occasional emotional support. Now victims and survivors have multiple needs that require much longer support. Pre-pandemic, our advocates carried about 20 to 30 ongoing cases. During the pandemic, they’re carrying about 60 to 70 ongoing cases. As essential workers, we continue to deliver our critical 24-hour emergency services.
At the same time, several of our key grants have ended or been cut due to the pandemic, including in our Advocacy and Abuse in Later Life programs. Some of our funders increased grants in 2021 to help cover pandemic costs, but most of those grants have ended and are not providing funds in 2022. In addition, with the omicron variant raging, we have had to reduce capacity at our shelter again, which results in less per diem funding, despite our costs of care being essentially the same.
Finally, we’re struggling to fill positions amidst the Great Resignation. We need to raise our salaries to remain competitive. We now find ourselves competing with the for-profit workforce, where we are often outmatched and resourced. This challenge is not unique to us. It is national crisis for nonprofits. In the New York Times article “As Workers Gain Pay Leverage, Nonprofits Can’t Keep Up” in December, an analysis found “[t]otal nonprofit employment in November was 4.8 percent below its prepandemic level, compared with a 1.5 percent employment gap in the for-profit sector.” Other Central New York-area nonprofits have reported the same issue.
The result of these three issues is that Vera House is at a crisis point. We are struggling to maintain services without full and consistent staffing. Staff from across the organization, including executives, are now providing direct services to ensure we meet the needs in our community. The agency’s services are at risk without increasing salaries, adding key positions and hiring great talent.
Everyone who works at Vera House is dedicated to serving victims and survivors of violence. Many of our staff members are survivors themselves. We believe wholeheartedly in providing unconditional care to people who are experiencing one of the hardest times in their lives.
About Vera House
Vera House is a comprehensive domestic and sexual violence service agency providing shelter, advocacy, and counseling services for adults and children, as well as education and prevention programs and community coordination.
A Message to Andrew Cuomo
“The Friends of Andrew Cuomo” spent over $300,000 to launch an ad campaign designed to paint former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as a victim of political attacks because of the sexual harassment claims against him. We cannot allow this gaslighting to continue while the ad revictimizes victims of not only Cuomo’s sexual harassment but ANYONE who has ever experienced abuse. The tactics used by Cuomo and his supporters further represent the barriers that survivors face every day that prevent them from coming forward and getting support.
We at Vera House have asked Andrew Cuomo to take accountability for the harm he has caused on multiple occasions. Instead of admitting to his wrongdoings, he continues to use power and control to suppress and invalidate the truths of the survivors. Today we released a video, produced by Solon Quinn Studios and supported by Survivors’ Network, that sends a powerful message to survivors, "I believe you."
We are asking you to help us amplify the video so that survivors throughout New York and the rest of the world know that we believe and stand with them.
Here’s how to get involved:
1. Share our post on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter
2. Engage with our content on Instagram and TikTok
3. Share survivor support resources from your organization
4. Tag @verahouseinc
For any questions or to request an interview with a member of Survivors' Network, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org