NEW ORLEANS - In a state with one of the highest rates of domestic violence deaths in the nation, advocates are working hard to stop potential cuts to vital services.
Legislators are debating whether to trim domestic violence programs by nearly 40 percent.
For domestic violence survivors, a bed in a shelter means the difference between life and death.
“This has given me some hope to know that I can live in spite of what I've been through in the past,” said one survivor, who asked us not to reveal her identity.
But shelters like the Crescent House in New Orleans could close if the legislature approves massive cuts for services that help victims of domestic violence.
”It's very important because if it was not for the shelter, I would probably be on the streets,” said the survivor.
She believes many victims of domestic violence would go back to their abusers without a safe haven to turn to.
Managers of the Crescent House say the shelter’s 14 beds are usually filled, and they sometimes have to turn people away.
Now, counting a $1 million cut in January, the state is considering slashing the budget for domestic violence programs by nearly 40 percent, potentially crippling services.
“It will absolutely gut domestic violence programs,” said Mary Claire Landry, director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center. “We will not be able to provide services in every parish across the state like we're doing now. We will not have the number of beds available for women who are seeking safety in the middle of the night.”
While the number of beds could be cut, survivors say domestic violence programs aren't just about a bed. They offer advocates, counseling, and 24-hour crisis hotlines, all of which would be in danger of being cut.
“It would just be tragic if we're going back to a day where women didn't know where to turn for services,” said Landry.
This week, the New Orleans Family Justice Center is testifying with survivors in Baton Rouge in an effort to stop the cuts and potentially, save lives.
“Please do not go forward with the cuts,” said the survivor. “A lot of women really do depend on this.”
A spokesman with the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services said safety remains a priority and it is working to allocate money appropriately.
"Domestic violence funding in Louisiana is based on an outdated funding model focused too much on shelters instead of prevention, education and outreach,” said Trey Williams, communications director for DCFS. “DCFS continues to work with domestic violence providers in moving away from costly residential care."