Hamilton's Women's Refuge is struggling to keep its crisis service running in the lead-up to one of its busiest times of the year.
The 24/7 crisis response service ensures two employed staff members are on site to attend emergencies, but it is getting harder to make ends meet.
Other refuge staff are so stretched the centre has had to appeal for volunteers over Christmas and the New Year.
The refuge receives 60 to 80 police response calls a week and visits families involved.
And women helped by the refuge hate to imagine their lives without it. One, who cannot be named, said if not for the refuge she would have stayed in a violent and harmful relationship.
Instead, she and her children got out and made a fresh start.
"[You] realise that isn't a way to live. Sometimes it becomes a normal thing - and it isn't normal but you don't know any better . . . It's like a cycle, and you just go round and round in circles, not caring," she said.
But it's becoming hard to keep up a range of services, said Te Whakaruruhau Family Services manager Ruahine Albert, and the festive season is always busy.
After last Christmas, the Hamilton refuge brought in three teams of crisis support workers when faced with around 1200 people to help - almost double the usual for the season.
This year the crisis callout service is itself in crisis.
"We're having to reassess that because it's not funded," Miss Albert said.
"You only get paid for crisis line phones, you don't get paid for going out."
Women's Refuges receive government funding for around 50 to 60 per cent of their work and rely on fundraising, donations, and grants to make up the difference, so the centre is trying to negotiate more government funding.
Hamilton's refuge is an amalgamation of two. Miss Albert said Hamilton Refuge and Support Services hadn't had any recent funding increases, and it was about three years since Te Whakaruruhau Maori Women's Refuge had.
The threat to that front-line response to domestic abuse is worrying other Hamilton agencies which work in the area.
Kirikiriroa Family Services Trust chief executive Ngaio Gillies said domestic violence was increasing, and Hamilton couldn't do without the crisis response service.
"For a long time that crisis service has been under-funded, and I think Roni [Ruahine Albert] has just tried to make ends meet and still provide a quality service," she said. "I think what Roni is saying is that she's getting to a place where she can't make ends meet any more . . . something's got to give."
What's more, the refuge was one of the few agencies which stayed open over the festive season, to respond to calls, Ms Gillies said.
Pai Ake Solutions clinical team leader Minoaka Kapuaahiwalani said the agencies have been providing their service with no funding for a long time.
"And it has come to a time now where it's not viable any more," she said.
At present the refuge has 30 staff and Miss Albert said was a struggle when a woker might need to spend a day with one case.
Two weeks ago, staff arrived at work on Monday to 35 waiting cases.
In preparation for a seasonal increase in violence, the refuge sent newsletters to community organisations on Thursday, asking for volunteers for Christmas and New Year, and four had been identified by Friday.
"A rise in the number of people needing the refuge over the past three weeks indicates volunteers will be sorely needed," Miss Albert said. "There's definitely a lot of hardship, more so out in the community than it ever has been."
The refuge is also seeking donations for Christmas food parcels.
To donate, call (07) 855 1569 or drop them off at the office at 1190 Victoria Street.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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