Nonprofit that aimed to rehabilitate St. Louis men who commit domestic violence to shut down
Joe Eulberg doesn't remember what made him so upset that he flipped a table during an argument with his wife 20 years ago.
He does remember the outcome.
"A few days after that, Barbara, my wife, came and said you need to get help or I'm going to leave and take the kids,” Eulberg said in a recent interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
Eulberg turned for help to the Raven.
Since 1979, the nonprofit has helped rehabilitate men who've committed acts of domestic violence.
But this week, Raven officials announced the organization will shut down next month.
Grant funding has dried up, Raven board president Seth Hicks said, and program fees alone won’t support operations.
"Similar to a grieving family, we've had an ongoing conversation where we've gradually come to realize that our loved one just isn't going to make it,” Hicks said.
Raven was started in 1979 by a group of men who wanted to create a program for men who perpetrated domestic violence.
Participants attend group sessions and go through a curriculum that emphasizes non violence, gender equality and healthy relationships.
Hicks said the program has served “thousands” of people and is the second oldest batterer intervention program in the U.S. It also expanded over the years to include anti-violence education for young people.
Eulberg went through the Raven program for adult men in the early ‘90s, after the table-flipping incident. In fact, his wife gave him RAVEN’s phone number.
He said a key part of the curriculum is getting men to realize that abuse is a choice and is tied to control.
“The program was wonderful for me,” he said. “They weren’t nice to me. They were holding my feet to the fire, so to speak. They were not tolerating any excuse or minimizing or blaming. They wanted me to take ownership of my violence completely.”
Eulberg, 67, said he never relapsed into violence again after going through the program. After retirement, he got reacquainted with RAVEN as a group facilitator and as a board member.
As with most nonprofits, RAVEN relied heavily on grants, Hicks said.
The organization’s annual expenses ranged between about $155,000 to $190,000, according to its most recent tax filings.
A large chunk of that was covered by “basic support” grants from the Missouri Foundation for Health, which totaled nearly $260,000 since 2005.
But that funding stream dried up a couple of years ago.
MFH spokeswoman Courtney Stewart said the agency ended the grant program that had been giving Raven funding.
"As you know, from time to time, programs end and strategies change, especially in philanthropy,” Stewart said in an email. “Basic support (grant) was a remarkable effort by Missouri Foundation for Health, which allowed us to help many organizations that were service oriented and focused on assisting others. But, through basic support, we were not able to address some of the most pressing health issues of the state, such as the uninsured and educating Missouri residents about the benefits of being covered, which we are addressing now.”
Raven board president Hicks said that in recent years, the group also saw fewer referrals for new participants, who were asked to pay on a sliding scale for services.
Raven served 93 people in 2014, down from 146 men in 2010.
“This illustrates the pattern of declining referral numbers that has contributed to the organization's decrease in revenue,” Hicks said.
The final men’s group session will be Oct. 18.
In the meantime, Raven hopes to sell the curriculum it created so that another organization might pick up where it leaves off.
“It’s a sad end to something I think we’ve been able to do good with for a lot of years,” Hicks said.