Experts say rural Iowa domestic abuse victims could suffer most as five shelters in Iowa head toward closing or mergers.
Currently, only 28 of Iowa's 99 counties have domestic abuse shelters, with at least five likely to close come July 1.
"Domestic abuse services are at a very difficult place right now because of the funding cuts at the state and federal levels have been so dramatic," said Laurie Schipper, director of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
She said shelter providers are having to cover more areas with less advocates and that they're able to provide fewer services.
Most of the shelters that will close likely will be in rural areas, she said. That includes a shelter in Shenandoah that may close, and a Des Moines program for victims of domestic violence who are deaf that could merge with an Ames shelter.
"That was a very important, culturally specific program," she said.
Shelters in Oskaloosa and Knoxville also could be merged.
"These programs have done nothing wrong," Schipper said. "They simply are rural and serve small numbers of women, therefore we need to look at merging services. Unfortunately, this will impact women in rural areas more."
In an effort to keep the 10-bed Shenandoah shelter open, a grant is being sought, but a decision is not expected until September, which could be too late.