The YWCA Olga Madrid Center.
When the COVID-19 crisis closed schools, YWCA San Antonio began providing emergency child care to families in need. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The City recommended five projects Thursday that will address current gaps in services and strategies aimed at stopping violence before it starts.

After reaching out to 310 local nonprofits eligible for funding, Director of Human Services Melody Woosley said five agencies submitted proposals vying for a portion of the $500,000 City Council set aside for program development, out of $1 million allocated in the 2020 budget to address San Antonio’s high rates of family and intimate partner violence.

“We are excited about these recommendations because these are evidence-based programs that are new to the community and will complement existing programs,” Woosley said, noting the evaluation criteria included agency experience and a breakdown of how the funding would be used. 

YWCA San Antonio had the highest scoring proposition and was recommended for $272,222 to fund school-based teen violence prevention programs in San Antonio and Edgewood independent school districts.

Programs selected for potential funding will work to address priorities outlined by the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence, which was established in August and includes members of law enforcement, the judiciary, City and County staff, nonprofits, and health care organizations, said Jenny Hixon, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s recently hired violence prevention manager. “Each committee looked at the comprehensive plan and decided what to focus on in our first year,” Hixon said. 

The Bexar County Family Justice Center Foundation would receive $330,552 to address high-risk domestic violence incidents. The foundation would hire a team of employees that would help expedite protective order applications and address any violations of these orders to assist survivors identified as being in extreme danger. These people will be identified through the Bexar County Family Justice Center’s high-priority filing system and danger assessment tools, Woosley said.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid was recommended to receive $226,726 to go toward pro-bono representation for survivors of family and intimate partner violence. The funding would help create a county-wide system for increasing pro-bono representation that focuses on increasing the number of protective orders processed.

Family Violence Prevention Services (FVPS), which oversees the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter, was recommended to receive two separate funding awards: one for $125,000 to increase the number and availability of forensic nurses to examine abuse survivors and another for $45,500 to train first responders in violence, trauma, and lethality risk.

Projects recommended for funding were selected by an evaluation committee that included representatives from the City of San Antonio’s human services and health departments, the San Antonio Police Department, and the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation.

On Feb. 13, City Council will vote on approving the contract awards, which will be distributed over 19 months, from March 1 to the end of fiscal year 2021.

The number of domestic violence-related homicides doubled from 2015 to 2018, Woosley said, and the number of felony firearm arrests increased by an average of 6 percent every year from 2014 to 2018. Additionally, in May 2019, FVPS reported its highest average monthly headcount in the organization’s history, she said. 

“It’s hard to put a finger on why we are such an outlier among all the other outliers,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said of the increasing rates of family and intimate partner violence locally. “But we do know that one very important component [to that] is the culture of violence we see in even our youngest residents.”

Hixon said that because the comprehensive plan to address domestic violence is a five-year plan, some domestic violence-related problems the city encounters will be received funding priority in later years, such as housing and batterers intervention programs.

“We are not going to stop looking into these [problem areas] just because they did not receive funding. There is just a huge need, and we are continuing to find all the resources we can,” Hixon said. “Other priorities are going to rise to the top after we address the first year priorities.”

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.