Mandatory Bible studies have led to the loss of federal funds for two Colorado women's shelters. The Gospel Shelter for Women centers, which are non-profit organizations, offer assistance to individuals who are mentally ill. Additionally, they provide transitional housing for the homeless and those struggling with addiction.
There's nothing new about the religious elements associated with both facilities, as both Liza's Place and Hope Home -- the shelters at the center of this funding cut -- have always been faith-based and open about fully embracing Christianity. KXRM-TV has more:
Apparently, the women who go through these facilities are required to participate in Bible studies as a portion of their treatment. In the past, these studies were believed to be optional, so officials allowed monies to be allocated in support of the shelters. But the revelation that participants are forced to take part in religious activities has led to a major funding loss.
Faced with a tough decision, leaders of the organization decided to keep prayer and faith in the program. Of course, the other option would be to continue accepting federal dollars, while taking faith out of the equation.
"They wanted me to get some of the Christianity out of the program, and we just couldn't do that," said Marilyn Vyzourek, the founder and executive director of Liza's Place. "The meat of what we do here is the Bible studies."
According to Vyzourek, the shelter has undergone two cuts, which constitute between $50,000 and $55,000 each year. This, she says, is about 25 percent of the overall income taken in. As a result, leaders have been forced to stop offering much-needed counseling programs, lay off an employee and give up one of the vehicles that is owned by the facility.
Bob Holmes is the executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, the agency that helps disseminate the $1.88 million in HUD money that is allocated each year. In speaking about the decision to cut funding to the shelters, he was clear that the agency was previously confused regarding the nature of the Bible studies.
“HUD is very, very, very strict, very unequivocal, about programs have to be of a secular nature,” he said. “We talked with Marilyn, and I think she made a well-informed decision that she needed to stand up for what she believed in, and we respect that. “But to continue to fund her knowing what we know would have jeopardized our entire HUD funding.”
While Holmes says that he is a major fan of Vyzourek's, he says he's intent on upholding regulations. “But HUD rules are HUD rules. You always need to follow the rules that funders set up,” he reiterates.
Vyzourek, who claims to have a 60 percent success rate among the 700 women who have gone through her program, doesn't regret the decision to choose faith over state funding. "The reason that I'm holding fast to this is because it is the best thing for the ladies," she said.
Below, learn more about the shelters:
Now, the center will look for other ways, via private channels, to make up for the loss of funding.