Amfo funds dry up – Safe Haven stops client intake

POSTED: 06/13/13 5:29 PM

St. Maarten – Two months after its funding with Antillean co-financing agency Amfo dried up, the Safe Haven Foundation home for battered women has had to deny clients because of financial troubles.

It’s a sad turn of events for a foundation that has been sheltering victims of abuse and their children, in a discreet facility for up to three months at a time. But managing director Loyola Seymonson says that they have been left with no alternative.
“We were lucky because Amfo subsidized us until April but for the past two months now, we are getting financial strain. We are trying to get different projects funded by Usona. We have been denied so far. But we have to find ways to get the money in order.
We have no funding right now, there is no money. We don’t know how we are going to survive. I sent a letter to the board advising them to stop taking clients into the shelter and only concentrate on the outdoor clients that we have.”

Seymonson said that if clients are admitted to the shelter they would require 24 hours a day monitoring and care. Staff would have to be paid for overtime or night shift duties and this would place additional strain on the budget. While seeking funding and initiating fund raising activities, the foundation also relies on the Bishop Ellis Foundation for donations of food supplies that can be prepared for clients daily.
Enquiries at the new St. Maarten Development Funding Agency by Safe Haven also revealed that the agency only has the ability to fund small projects and not support entire foundations. While the government has placed 3 million guilders on the 2013 Budget to cushion the effect of Amfo on non-governmental organizations, the budget is still to be entered into law. The current situation offers little encouragement for non-governmental organizations.
“The future is very bleak and it is very sad because we have people calling the hotline all the time and we are only taking clients that are really in crisis.”

The classification of cases and denial of battered women who are seeking refuge goes against the very principals upon which Safe Haven was founded especially since a case can escalate from low risk to severe in seconds, the foundation director says. She adds government should have been more prepared.
“I think it is something that government failed to accurately address. This is not something that Amfo just did and got up and left. St. Maarten knew the day was coming for years. The plan was always to help the government of St. Maarten and the NGOs but with the intention that the government would take over. But that never happened, the government waited until Amfo left and all the funding was running dry and now you are running looking for things.”

Clearly peeved by the situation, Seymonson said that the more than a dozen distressed women, who call the hotline daily for help, will not understand legalistic excuses.
“We are the ones that are being affected as foundations because of all of the people that are depending on us. But it’s not only our foundation but all foundations and afterschool programs, everybody is suffering right now because of, perhaps, the slackness of government. The priorities that are set especially in the social sector by government are really not up to date. It’s so important to cater to your women and children.

The foundation firmly believes that women are the backbone of society, who raise families and shape strong communities but abused women cannot contribute to the development of society in the way they ought to, because they need help.
The foundation is also busy appealing to the government so that it can be granted a legal aid representative for battered women. For now the Safe Haven expends its limited resources to pay for legal assistance for its clients.

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