When Jennifer Franklin's boyfriend found out that she and her four children were staying at a battered women's shelter in Pasadena, she decided it was time to leave. After all, he'd threatened Franklin with a gun, gotten her four-year-old drunk, thrown a TV through the wall and driven her to a remote spot and forced her out of the car, then wheeled off. When he was drinking, violence was always a possibility.
Fortunately, Franklin had another option -- Women Helping Women. The northwest Houston nonprofit run by founder Faye Turner specializes in job training and also operates a shelter for battered women. In May, one of the organization's staff members had come to Pasadena to discuss the jobs program, and Franklin had talked to her about enrolling.
So in June, when Franklin's caseworker suggested a move to the relatively distant Women Helping Women shelter, the change seemed a good idea. Women Helping Women had a reputation as an effective job-training organization and had won one of President Bush's Points of Light awards. Not only would Franklin be far away from her batterer (the shelter is at the organization's office just off FM 1960), but she would have access to the many services WHW promises: free food and clothing, child care, job placement assistance and transportation.
But those services never materialized. "I never got any assistance while I was there," Franklin says. "We bought our own food. They couldn't help me with child care. Basically, I was on my own."
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTSA Roadrunners Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 6:00pm
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. UCF Knights Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 11:00am
At Women Helping Women, Franklin harbored concerns about her safety. The other shelters she'd stayed in had tight security, with cameras, steel doors and strict policies for staff, residents and guests to follow. Women Helping Women's security measures, on the other hand, consisted of an alarm that didn't work. People freely wandered in and out of the two-story house throughout the day.
Moreover, Franklin and her family felt like second-class citizens, even compared to the many community service workers who provided free labor as part of their parole or probation agreements. The staff insisted that her children either stay outside or remain virtually silent while indoors so as not to disrupt the organization's daily dealings. "We were treated like we were in their way," Franklin says. "We felt completely uncomfortable."
Within a week, Franklin was told to move out. She says Women Helping Women director Faye Turner wanted the family gone because they were costing too much money: The organization had won a $50,000 grant through the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office that paid for shelter and counseling services, but WHW would not get the money unless the victims were referred by that law enforcement agency. Franklin had come from another shelter, not the constable's office. "Faye told me that since Precinct 4 wasn't paying for me to be there, I had to leave," Franklin says.
Women Helping Women employee Kim Kelly faxed a letter to the Press claiming that Franklin was asked to leave after violating a number of house rules, including coming in after curfew on "several occasions" and letting her sister know the location of the shelter. "She was never told she had to leave because Precinct 4 had not referred her," Kelly wrote.
But Franklin denies she broke the rules, a claim backed by the other two women living in the house at the time -- Lisa Thomas, who had been referred by Precinct 4, and Joyce Bicki, the live-in housemother who left for good last week after two months of frustration. "Jennifer didn't break no rule other than that she didn't meet Faye's requirements," Bicki says.
Bicki's departure makes her the third housemother that the shelter has lost in its short life (Women Helping Women bought the building last October and opened the doors in January). The live-in position, required under the terms of the grant with the constable's office, is being filled temporarily by Turner and other volunteers until the next replacement can be found.
Compared to other shelters in the region, Women Helping Women's shelter seems substandard in almost every way. The staff has almost no professional training in the battered women's field. Services are practically nonexistent. The security, which Jennifer Franklin was accused of breaching, was considered a farce by the residents (though after the Press inquired last week, a working alarm was finally installed and activated). The shelter's address was even published in the 1960 Sun, a local community newspaper.
Asked about these issues, Turner and her staff offered a variety of explanations, often contradictory. The alarm always worked, Turner said when first asked, it was just that Bicki couldn't manage to arm it. Later, after Kelly had been unable to activate the alarm as Press photographer Nicole Fruge stood by, Kelly said that Turner had changed the codes while she was on vacation and hadn't yet given the staff the new numbers. She also claimed that she'd gotten it to function later by randomly pressing buttons on the keypad, then disarmed it the same way.
Bicki, who witnessed the incident, disputes all those stories. "That is a joke," she says, laughing. "The alarm did not work."
Other stories didn't add up, either. The morning that Bicki left, Kelly denied any knowledge of her departure to the Press, even though Bicki, her son and her friend say they bade farewell to Kelly before their exit. "I gave her a hug," says Bicki, "we said our good-byes, I said I love you, voila." Later, Turner faxed a note admitting that Bicki had moved out and taken her belongings.
Turner also claimed that the shelter's eight beds, divided among two small upstairs rooms, had reached capacity numerous times since the building opened in January, and that "I was real naive in thinking that eight beds and emergency shelter would suffice." Minutes later, however, she estimated that only 18 people had sought shelter at the facility, some for as little as one night.
Despite the obvious problems with the shelter, the constable's office seems to be turning a blind eye, though the Victim Assistance Division is supposed to be closely monitoring the agency for compliance with the grant. That may be because Precinct 4 apparently bent the rules to award the grant to Women Helping Women even though two other more established agencies had expressed interest; one offered a clearly superior proposal.
The conditions at the shelter and lack of oversight may seem unimportant, especially given the small number of women who have sought a safe haven there. But for battered women in crisis, getting immediate professional help is often a life-and-death matter, and a shoddy response can cause lasting harm. "Even people who are best-intended can do damage," says a prominent area battered women's advocate. "There's tremendous opportunities for abuse."
In the case of Women Helping Women, the shelter not only lacks many of the services other shelters offer, but even compassion seems to be in short supply. Asked about the residents' negative assessments of her organization, Turner blames the battered women. Jennifer Franklin, she says, broke the rules and lied about her situation. Joyce Bicki, herself a battered woman, poisoned the shelter clients' minds. (Prior to Bicki's departure, Turner had called her "very compassionate and very knowing.") And Jennie Arrendondo, who preceded Bicki as housemother, was abusive and threatening, according to a memo Turner faxed to other area shelters. "They treat you like a criminal," says former shelter resident Lisa Thomas. "For a displaced woman and her child, all it did was cause more stress."
The need for battered women's shelters and services has grown steadily in the past several years. Domestic violence may not be on the rise, but reported cases certainly are. Increased public awareness of the issue and efforts by law enforcement agencies to address the problem have meant that more battered women are seeking options outside their abusive relationships.
In response, shelters have opened and service providers have expanded their menus. The FamilyTime Foundation of Humble, which this October will celebrate its 20th year of providing counseling and other services for families in crisis, opened a $350,000 state-of-the-art shelter a year ago. Northwest Assistance Ministries, a northwest Harris County agency that is one of the biggest in the area, plans to launch a shelter program of its own next year that will place victims in host homes and connect them to services.
But demand continues to outpace supply. According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, a statewide umbrella group, 37 percent of the shelters in Texas turned away women and children needing shelter at least once during the last ten months of 1996 because the facilities were already full. The Houston Police Department Family Violence Unit wrote more than 25,000 domestic violence offense reports in 1995. And from 1995 to 1996, the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office saw an increase in domestic violence offenses of almost 80 percent.
In northwest Harris County, the need for shelter space grew more acute in August 1995 with the closing of the Roseate, a shelter and service provider that had been struggling financially. The end proved a bitter pill for the Roseate's staff and board, which were convinced that its troubles were the result of a conspiracy to eliminate the organization. That bitterness would indirectly spur Women Helping Women's entry into the shelter business.
The primary conspirator, the Roseate staff and board believed, was Northwest Assistance Ministries, the foremost provider of services for battered women in the area. Though Roseate associates could provide no concrete evidence, they charged that NAM sabotaged the agency by making unfounded allegations to the state Department of Human Services and other funding sources so it could corner the grant market. "NAM wants every grant that ever comes down the pike," says Mickey Matkin, a Roseate board member who served as the group's attorney.
The battered women's service community is tight-knit, and everyone interviewed by the Press knew of the long-standing tension between the Roseate and NAM. Except for the Roseate people, however, those in the field uniformly discount the idea that NAM engaged in sabotage. NAM, they say, is simply better managed. And the Roseate's problems were well-documented -- a state audit and several site visits by the Texas Department of Human Services had detailed concerns about the operation, especially about record-keeping and fiscal controls, for several years.
Annette Geffert, who was hired to resurrect the agency after it closed and worked unsuccessfully for nine months on the project, is one of the few former Roseate people who harbor no ill will toward NAM. Aware of the conflict when she started working, she made an effort to build bridges with NAM and helped broker negotiations for the bigger group to absorb the Roseate. That didn't happen, however, because NAM was skittish about possible liabilities for the Roseate's debts while in the midst of a capital campaign to buy its own headquarters. "They were quite willing to work with me," Geffert says. "Bottom line was, they just didn't want to absorb that kind of debt."
The Roseate hasn't officially dissolved, though Matkin says it's "de facto defunct." But resentment of NAM hasn't dissipated along with the Roseate's assets. In fact, it seems to have taken root and flourished -- in the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Victim Assistance Division, which awarded Women Helping Women its $50,000 grant.
On November 15, 1995, the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office officially applied for $150,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The grant would fund two specially trained domestic-violence patrol officers at a cost of $100,000; the remainder would go to a partnering agency to provide shelter and related services for battered women. With two officers dedicated to the beat, the application noted, community awareness of domestic violence would increase and the number of incidents decrease through prevention, intervention and education.
The idea was right up Precinct 4's alley. Following a general trend in law enforcement, the agency in 1993 had secured state funding and established a Victim Assistance Division, which coordinated domestic violence matters as well as other victim's issues. Headed by Corporal Mary Krebs, a former patrol officer, the division had seen positive results in its brief history. "There was an increase in reporting [of domestic violence incidents], and a decrease in recidivism," says Krebs.
The agency Precinct 4 chose as its partner was the Roseate, which the grant described as having a 12-year relationship with the constable's office. "The Roseate operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is staffed by 11 full-time employees," the application read, detailing its many programs and support services.
The description wasn't accurate, though it had been -- the Roseate had closed in August, more than three months earlier. Krebs was presumably aware that the organization was non-functional, since she served on the Roseate's board of directors.
Krebs insists that including the Roseate in the grant was a mere formality, because county regulations would have required that the contract be bid out if Precinct 4 got the money. "The guidelines stated that you needed to apply with a nonprofit agency," she explained. "The Roseate was the only shelter facility in northwest Harris County, so we went with them."
That explanation, however, raises the question of whether the grant application, which Krebs wrote, was tailored to eliminate other agencies from contention. The grant category under which Precinct 4 applied for funds said nothing about shelters, which Krebs made a central part of the grant. NAM has no stand-alone shelter, though that agency has a partnership agreement with local hotels to provide emergency lodging.
Nor is it clear why northwest Harris County was especially important, since Precinct 4 covers the northeast side as well. But that requirement did serve to eliminate the other battered women's service provider in Precinct 4's jurisdiction, the FamilyTime Foundation, which is located in Humble. "I couldn't represent us as being in northwest Harris County, because we aren't," says FamilyTime executive director Carol Price, who declined to bid for the grant.
The point was moot by June 1996, when the federal grant was finally awarded; the Roseate no longer had hopes of reviving. But Precinct 4 still needed an agency partner in order to qualify for its $100,000 share of the grant. On October 23, Krebs and others in the constable's office e-mailed each other a plan to put out a Request For Proposal and take bids on the project. Krebs would write the RFP, and would send it to the county purchasing agent (who officially handles RFP logistics for the county) along with the names of prospective applicants who should be sent a bid packet.
One of the names on the list was Women Helping Women, a tax-exempt nonprofit that specialized in job training and counseling. Women Helping Women had no experience running a shelter, but had just closed on its new headquarters off FM 1960, which would be ready for occupancy in January. The agency had ties to Precinct 4: Founder and director Faye Turner was a friend of Debbie Svoboda, who worked under Krebs.
The connections go deeper. Svoboda, like Krebs, had ties to the Roseate, having served as its executive director until just before it shut down. Prior to Women Helping Women's purchase, the building had been owned by the Roseate. Instead of going through foreclosure, the Roseate simply turned over the title to WHW, and Sterling Bank allowed the new owners to pick up the monthly payments. "We gave it to them," says former Roseate board member and attorney Mickey Matkin.
Evidently there was another element to the deal: Women Helping Women would become the new Precinct 4 partner and get the $50,000 chunk of the federal grant. "That's part of the reason we considered [buying the building]," says Kendall Jaeger, who sits on Women Helping Women's board and also serves as the group's accountant. "Otherwise it would have been too much for us."
Though Women Helping Women closed on the house in October, the negotiations had started a couple of months earlier, before the official RFP process began. In fact, Women Helping Women's proposal was first written in August, supposedly before the RFP was even on the drawing board, then revised after the RFP went out. A page in the proposal, provided by purchasing, is titled "Harris County Request For Proposal, Grant Application 1997" and lists the grant amount as $50,000. Faye Turner signed the document on August 29.
Asked how Women Helping Women could have assumed the grant would be directed to them, Krebs says she has no idea. She also denies that Women Helping Women wrote an application two months before the RFP was created. "They didn't," she says. "When I got [Women Helping Women's proposal], to my knowledge it didn't have that date on it."
That's not Krebs's only recollection that differs from the evidence. She says she instructed Lori Clyde of the purchasing agent's office to send packets to NAM as well as Women Helping Women and FamilyTime. But her note to Clyde that listed the groups to receive an RFP included only FamilyTime Foundation and Women Helping Women.
Krebs first said that she'd given NAM's name to purchasing. Asked later about the note to Clyde, she says that if NAM wasn't on the list, it was because they already had a copy of the RFP and didn't need another. "I know that they got it," she said.
Odd, then, that Women Helping Women submitted the only proposal, and that NAM wrote a scathing letter on December 19 to the Precinct 4 Constable Dick Moore complaining that the organization had never been informed of the grant until after the deadline. The letter questioned the RFP process and charged that Krebs and Svoboda had manipulated the system to thwart NAM's application for the funds.
Moore penned an angry response, and the two agencies eventually met to work out their differences. The results: NAM executive director Anais Watsky wrote a follow-up letter to Moore stating that "all concerns have been addressed and all problems resolved to the satisfaction of both NAM and the Precinct 4 Constable's Office." The RFP was then re-advertised, and NAM applied.
The only other proposal came from Women Helping Women, which submitted a spiffed-up version of its previous application. Unlike the original, which mentioned almost nothing about shelter services, the second included numerous references in boldface type to battered women and a shelter.
A committee headed by Mary Krebs interviewed representatives of Women Helping Women and NAM, evaluated the two proposals and recommended that the money go to Women Helping Women. The choice, says Krebs, was easy -- even though NAM's cost of services was lower, meaning it could have stretched the $50,000 to provide shelter and services for 50 percent more women and children. NAM had neither a stand-alone shelter or a 24-hour hot line, she noted. Women Helping Women not only offered both those services, but met the other requirements as well. "Everything was already right there in one little neat package," says Krebs.
But the Press's visits to the shelter and a review of the applications tell a very different story. While it's true that NAM has no 24-hour hot line (the agency proposed to use some of the $50,000 to set one up), Women Helping Women has a telephone line that, more often than not, rolls over to a beeper number. The page is then answered by Turner or whichever employee or volunteer is holding the beeper; none of them has formal training in counseling or crisis intervention. Such a hot line arrangement would not qualify for state funds, as it would violate Texas Department of Human Services guidelines on almost every front. Other area hot lines are staffed by paid professionals and volunteers with an average of 40 hours of training.
Even Krebs admits that Women Helping Women's hot line hardly meets the standard definition of the term, but she says it's merely a semantic problem. "That's just a phrase," she says.
It's a similar stretch to characterize most of Women Helping Women's other "services" as even minimal. NAM has an enormous food pantry stocked with canned and dry goods; the organization distributes more than 500 full meals a month to needy families and is accessible to almost anyone who asks. Women Helping Women has a refrigerator and a few cabinets. At its location occupying most of a strip mall on FM 1960, NAM has a family violence center, a children's health clinic, a Meals-On-Wheels operation and a thriving resale shop that provides free clothing to the needy, including family violence clients, as well as numerous other programs. NAM has 46 full-time and 20 part-time employees, and an annual budget of almost $3 million. Asked about Women Helping Women's fiscal condition, Turner says, "It's hand to mouth around here, let me tell you."
If an actual comparison of services wasn't enough to sway the committee NAM's way, the two agencies' financial statements should have at least given them pause. Though not required, NAM submitted 16 pages that included an independent audit and detailed program budgets.
In contrast, Women Helping Women offered a one-page budget that projected revenues of $204,000 and expenses of $186,240. The balance was calculated at $1,360, an obvious error. The revenue and expense columns were also mis-added: Using the numbers provided, revenues equaled $174,000 and expenses $194,240. Instead of a small surplus, the proposal's numbers actually showed a deficit of more than $20,000.
Faye Turner explained the confusion this way: "I think it's because we are never sure from year to year which monies we will receive."
Both Krebs and Lori Clyde from purchasing say they failed to notice any problems with Women Helping Women's budget. And Krebs says that as a small organization, Women Helping Women shouldn't be expected to meet the same standard as NAM. "This is the first time they've ever gotten state funding," says Krebs. "They don't have to have this exemplary auditing system."
Convoluted justifications aside, there's another explanation for the grant's going to Women Helping Women: the old animosity toward NAM from the Roseate days. Krebs says she doesn't necessarily hold NAM responsible for the Roseate's demise, though she admits that "they never got along with the Roseate." During committee meetings, she openly criticized NAM, and in the written evaluations of the proposals, she made pointed remarks about NAM while remaining neutral about Women Helping Women. Questions about NAM during an interview elicited scornful laughter, and on several occasions, Krebs mischaracterized NAM's services.
Krebs hinted at the depth of the conflict in a March 6 internal memo. "I'm not sure if personality conflicts would hinder our ability to work with NAM throughout the grant period," she wrote.
Still, she denies that ill will or bad history played any part in the grant decision. "None at all," she says. "There's no reason why it should."
Faye Turner doesn't pretend that Women Helping Women has all the answers, especially when it comes to providing shelter for battered women. "We still don't know what we're doing," she says candidly, her features strikingly pale behind an arching frame of jet black hair.
To some extent, that's because the agency is a new entry in the shelter business. With the practiced air of someone who has told a story hundreds of times, she recounts the organization's story: Founded by Turner, Women Helping Women made its primary mission to train displaced homemakers in non-traditional jobs such as forklift operation, computer programming and sign painting.
The idea came from Turner's own experience. In 1989, after her husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and could no longer work, she was forced to become the family breadwinner, taught herself sign painting and gradually established a successful business. That same year, she decided to help other women in similar circumstances by teaching a free sign painting course that eventually expanded into a small network of classes and services. According to Turner, more than 600 women have completed WHW's training programs and are now successfully ensconced in good jobs.
The group has been honored for its work several times, even garnering one of President Bush's Points of Light awards in 1992. "All because a sign painter didn't want to live out on the streets after her husband got sick," Turner beams.
The organization has its share of believers. Gloria Roberts, who took a computer class last year in cooperation with the North Harris Montgomery Community College District, credits Women Helping Women for giving her a new start. "They helped me a great deal," says Roberts, who is now enrolled at North Harris. "I would have never even dreamed at 65 that I could have gone to college."
To support its programs, Women Helping Women holds numerous fundraisers, applies for grants and generally scours the community for cash. But despite endorsements from such big names as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, money has been tight of late, especially since the organization had been homeless for two years before moving in January into its new location. Women Helping Women had abandoned its previous headquarters after a number of employees and volunteers had gotten bacterial infections, Turner says, from petrochemical pollution created by a previous tenant. "The EPA told us we needed to move out of there," she says, though she admits that the Environmental Protection Agency would not put that recommendation in writing.
That story, which at the time was reported in the media and won Turner much sympathy (and a few donations), has another side. "Faye and Women Helping Women were asked to vacate the premises because of several months of back rent that was not paid," says Pamela Harmon, daughter of the property's then-landlord.
Harmon's version has some backing. Jose Bonilla, who bought the property and is the current owner, says his concerns about the allegations led him to have the place checked top to bottom before committing to the purchase. "We ran all kinds of tests," says Bonilla. "There's nothing wrong with the property."
The Harris County Pollution Control Department reached the same conclusion. Department investigator Elizabeth Gwynn says she found a few spots of surface contamination, "minor, piddling stuff, nothing that would cause people to get sick," but otherwise the charges were groundless. "My conclusion was that the site was clean," Gwynn says.
Furthermore, say both Bonilla and Gwynn, Women Helping Women would not turn over any medical records to document the alleged illness. "If anything, it was the women's group that was a little bit less cooperative [than the landlord]," Gwynn says.
At any rate, Turner says that fundraising efforts, as well as the organization's activities, tailed off after the organization lost its space. Asked why Women Helping Women didn't simply rent another place, but instead chose to buy a building -- a bold step for a group that had a total budget of about $60,000 in 1996 and less than $25,000 in each of the previous three years, according to WHW board member and accountant Kendall Jaeger -- Turner says she didn't want to have the same problems recur. "We have bigger fish to fry than fighting little landlords and lawyers," she says.
Even before the dispute with the landlord left Women Helping Women homeless, Turner had tried another angle to stabilize the organization. In 1994, she approached Northwest Assistance Ministries about ab- sorbing the group. It didn't happen, she says, because NAM wouldn't provide child care while the women were in training, and because NAM wanted to claim credit for the Point of Light and other awards. "That's not fair," she says.
Anais Watsky, NAM's executive director, recalls it differently. "NAM wanted financial statements so we could see what we were taking over," Watsky says. "They never provided that."
But even without a home or much income, says Turner, Women Helping Women continued to train and place women in non-traditional, high-paying jobs. Last year, she says, between 30 and 34 women learned the forklift trade and are now working in the field.
Others, however, dispute those numbers. One Women Helping Women client says she had to attend a number of self-esteem and group therapy sessions in January, but the sign painting classes she'd been promised never materialized. "Every time I asked about the sign painting class," the former client recalls, "they said, 'We don't have a teacher, we don't have this, we don't have that.' "
Joyce Bicki, who started with Women Helping Women as a client before graduating to the housemother position, called the computer class she took "useless." The class, which was supposed to run for several months, was held at the Women Helping Women facility on obsolete equipment. The instructor taught three sessions before the class fizzled. "I got nothing out of it," Bicki says.
Turner would not provide any names of trainees placed b Women Helping Women or employers who hired them, though she originally agreed to produce a list. Instead, she sent an assortment of thank-you cards, invitations, newspaper clips and other items, only three of which made mention of jobs secured as a result of any training. After a second request to provide any documentation backing the claim of 600 total job placements, Turner changed her tune -- the employers refused to be associated with the Houston Press. "They're like, I don't want to see my name in that paper, nope."
As proof, someone faxed five two-line letters that appeared to have been spit out of the same computer in short order. Three were anonymous, signed only by "Joe," "Jim" and "Sue." Another was from a Women Helping Women board member.
The last bore the name of Turner's husband, Russ, who has a small taxidermy business. "Have Mr. Burtman page me," the letter read, including a pager number. "I will be happy to tell him about the women I have hired. I will be happy to tell him a lot of things for you!! Your loving husband, Russ."
The Press did call Russ Turner, who knew nothing about the letter. "That must have been Faye," he said. Asked if he had hired any Women Helping Women clients for his taxidermy business, Turner said, simply, "No."
Women Helping Women may not be especially active, but its activities do require money. The agency just received $35,000 from a local foundation, rescuing it from the brink of insolvency and guaranteeing that Faye Turner (who makes $42,000 a year) and the other two staff members will get their paychecks for a few more months. Turner can also count on a steady trickle of money from fundraisers and the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office, which recently approved the first batch of reimbursements to Women Helping Women for shelter services.
Turner says Women Helping Women won't be looking for revenue from the source most often tapped by battered women's service providers in the state: the Texas Department of Human Services, which guarantees funding to those shelters that meet its minimum standards. The state's excessive paperwork requirements take too much time and energy to handle, she says: "We try not to take government financing."
Turner's antipathy toward government assistance even extends to the free shelter management training and advice TDHS offers. "We have never worked with them in any capacity," says TDHS spokeswoman Lisa Barton.
Nor does Women Helping Women participate in the local umbrella agencies, such as the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, which are designed to share information and ideas, including possible sources of revenue. Turner's group doesn't even appear on the domestic violence referral lists of local law enforcement agencies, other than the Precinct 4 Constable's Office.
Participation in such programs might also bring scrutiny of the organization's finances or operations, and such scrutiny might harm fundraising efforts. The constable's office hasn't been much of a problem in that area, though, which may explain why Turner overcame her usual skittishness about government funding in Precinct 4's case. Though the grant requires that records on referrals and services be kept and analyzed monthly, the constable's office had no information available in response to an open records request.
Mary Krebs says it's still too early to have compiled much data. She says that to ensure that Women Helping Women is living up to its end of the bargain, she'll closely monitor the various reports and other required documentation, including surveys the residents are supposed to fill out when they leave.
But the four former residents contacted by the Press say they never filled out any such surveys. "They were supposed to fax me one," says Lisa Thomas. "I've never seen it."
The lack of paperwork didn't stop the constable's office from approving the $2,220 bill for sheltering Thomas submitted by Women Helping Women. The cost was based on a fee of $74 per night; of that, $21 was slated for shelter and the rest for various services. But except for a handful of food items and a typed list of referrals, Thomas says she received no services. "That's ridiculous," she says of the $74 figure. "That's ludicrous. Shoot, I can stay at one of the Marriotts for that. And be treated a whole lot better."
Women Helping Women and the constable's office still have a few months to work out the kinks, as the grant period lasts until the end of February of next year. But the feds have already notified Precinct 4 that the grant won't be renewed next year. It's not clear how Women Helping Women will maintain the shelter, though in an interview before the grant committee, Turner promised that her organization would continue to deliver the services should the money run out.
If the shelter dissolves, however, others would pick up the slack. FamilyTime Foundation will have increased its shelter capacity by 16 beds at the end of the year, and NAM's shelter program will begin placing women in 1998. According to FamilyTime executive director Carol Price, Precinct 4 patrol officers already bring women to her shelter, even though the constable's office has a contract with Women Helping Women.
Closing the Women Helping Women shelter would suit many in the community just fine. "Faye's concept is wonderful," says one WHW volunteer, "but what goes on as far as helping the women, forget it.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.