Since 1990, women and children have found refuge from abuse, poverty and other dangers 24 hours a day at the Shade Tree shelter. Director Marlene Richter says the facility’s 364 beds are full every day of the year, but Mother’s Day—when ideals of maternity take center stage—is especially difficult. She reflects on life at the Shade Tree for this year’s resident moms.
Can you describe the typical mother that you see taking shelter at Shade Tree?
This time of year, we have young women, in their early 30s, expecting a baby, and with one or two little ones. They have no resources left, no one else to turn to, and need a way to put together a plan and get back on their feet. They’re afraid to stay in the situation with a new baby coming; they know it’s not safe.
What do you do for them?
As soon as they arrive, we make sure they have what they need to eat, provide their bed, linens, hygiene items, baby items and put together a plan with their case manager on what they’d like to do next. We also have Noah’s animal house, so if they bring their pet with them, the pet is going to be onsite. We also have medical care—OB/GYN, pediatric and adult health care—on the third floor.
It’s been reported that your revenue has dropped because of the recession and the federal sequestration. Can you quantify the damage?
We have a $3.1 million budget; that hasn’t changed. Five years ago, we were 15 percent government-funded and 85 percent donor-supported. We’re now 45 percent reliant on government grants, because our donors didn’t have it to give like they did before. Now [because of the sequestration], the government funding is going away. We’re trying to make up for that with additional fundraisers and working with a consultant to make the most of every penny.