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Running a domestic violence shelter is a challenge in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. There are 22 such shelters across the state of Kansas, offering emergency housing, counseling and other emergency services for victims of abuse.


These essential programs continue to offer services in light of significant hardship. Their staff are to be commended for their dedication, and Kansans in a position to support these programs should do so.


More than 400 Kansans, adults and children, sleep in a domestic violence shelter every night in our state, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which conducts an annual one-day census of domestic violence programs across the United States. The most recent survey was released last month.


These shelters provide a safe place to land when victims attempt to leave their relationships, an especially dangerous time for domestic violence victims. Risk of homicide and serious injury rises significantly when a victim attempts to leave a relationship, according to data from the US Department of Justice.


Domestic violence shelters in Kansas must continue to shelter victims despite the risk of gathering people in from different parts of the community to share the same residence, and having residents come and go regularly. Kansas programs have also grappled with upgrading technology to allow online schooling for children who are staying in the homes.


These programs face the same resource scarcity as the rest of us on a larger scale and with higher stakes. When toilet paper, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment are in short supply, safely operating shelters becomes difficult.


Kansans who have such supplies would do well to get in touch with their local shelters to see if needs exist. Unrestricted financial donations are also particularly valuable during this time.


The state and federal grant programs that primarily fund such shelters are thankfully stable, but also restrict the kind of work staff members are able to do, making work-from-home arrangements difficult for programs that might otherwise be able to accommodate staff needs.


These hardships are impacting a system that was already experiencing unmet needs. The just-released NNEDV survey found 51 Kansans requested services in a single day that a domestic violence program was unable to provide, mostly requests for shelter.


Wichita, in particular, has a serious lack of shelter beds that has led to more than 40 victims being turned away each month due to lack of space.


With the shelter system already stretched thin, pandemic response will place additional strain on limited resources. The crisis points to an ongoing need for strong federal, state and private donor investment in these programs.