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Issues abound for newly promoted shelter CEO

| Monday, June 25, 2012, 12:04 a.m.
Shirl Regan, executive director of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Submitted.
Shirl Regan, executive director of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Submitted.

The lingering job losses from the Great Recession aren't just impacting families financially, said the leader of a shelter for women and children who have encountered domestic violence.

“We say that the recession doesn't cause domestic violence, but it does exacerbate any problems that are already in the home,” said Shirl Regan, who was recently promoted to president and CEO of the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh in the East End.

Of 700 law enforcement agencies nationwide that responded to a 2012 survey, 56 percent reported they believed they experienced an increase in domestic violence because of the economy, according to the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington.

Responding to increased needs while government funding declines is just one of the challenges Regan is facing at the women's center, she said.

“There is no funding to do anything new, and we're working really hard to keep the programs that we have in place, in place, because they are life-saving services that we offer in life-threatening situations,” said Regan, who added that the 35-bed shelter is at capacity.

Founded in 1974, the center offers legal advocacy, support groups, shelter and career development to women, and children's programs, said Alana Van Fossen, a development associate. The nonprofit provided services to 6,000 women and children in 2010-11. It has 50 employees.

Regan, 64, of Kennedy has worked in the anti-domestic violence field for 33 years, starting with her work at the Women's Center of Beaver County in 1979.

The parent of an adult son and daughter, she has bachelor's and master's degrees in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.

Her leadership since 2002 as executive director for the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh recently led the center's board of directors to create a new position — president and CEO — to better reflect Regan's responsibilities, said Sara Davis Buss, board president.

“She has navigated the organization through a lot of changes in funding sources for us and also at a time when we're seeing increased demand for our services,” Buss said.

The nonprofit's 2012-13 budget is $3.9 million, of which $1.4 million comes from government grants, said development director Barbara Nicholas, who said the amount of government grants is below what it was 1999-2000.

However, individual contributions nearly doubled to $631,000 since 1999, said Kent Bloom, director of finance and information.

The center has responded to financial challenges in several ways, including by cutting three staff positions in 2010, Regan said. But it also couldn't offer counseling to match the increase in clients who don't need shelter, she said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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