A hospital worker is seen at a staff COVID-19 assessment area outside Lions Gate hospital in North Vancouver on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A hospital worker is seen at a staff COVID-19 assessment area outside Lions Gate hospital in North Vancouver on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Domestic violence shelters adapt as COVID-19 forces families home

Anyone in immediate danger — or afraid someone else is — should call 911

Women’s shelters are adjusting to ensure they can help anyone experiencing domestic violence as the COVID-19 pandemic forces families to stay home together, worsens economic hardship and upsets routines.

“We are faced with definitely a very complicated and unprecedented situation,” said Marlene Ham, executive director of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, which represents more than 70 shelters in the province.

“We know home is not safe for many women and that is the location in which women are experiencing the most harassment, violence and, in certain circumstances, mortality.”

Shelters have been directed to have screening plans. Ham said services are still running 24 hours a day and she’s not aware of any shelters in Ontario closing.

Some shelters are providing outreach over the phone or online rather than in person.

“There may be some adaptation to what we do, but certainly we are available to provide the supports that we need to provide at this time.”

Ham is encouraging women who need help to reach out to their local shelter. Contact information for shelters across Canada can be found at Safeshelter.ca.

Anonymous crisis lines are also available to help women formulate safety plans.

Anyone in immediate danger — or afraid someone else is — should call 911.

“If women are experiencing violence in the home — reach out so that we can find some other options,” said Ham.

“We certainly don’t want women to feel that self-isolating at home becomes more important than your physical safety.”

Jan Reimer of the Alberta Council of Women’s shelters said it’s too soon to say whether the pandemic is causing a surge in domestic violence, but she can see how it would contribute.

“We do know that domestic violence is all about power and control, so we can see the potential for abusers to use the virus to further isolate women,” she said.

That could take the form of cutting women off from friends and family or stopping them from getting medical attention.

“For friends and family to continue to reach out to women would be really important,” she added.

Reimer said shelters are overwhelmingly staffed by women, many of whom have had to scramble to find childcare as the virus closed schools and daycares.

Shelters have been leaning on each other to make sure they’re well supplied and provincial funding has helped, said Reimer.

The Alberta government announced Tuesday that $60 million would go toward adult homeless shelters, women’s emergency shelters and the Family and Community Support Services program.

Reimer said anyone who wants to donate to a women’s shelter should give money online instead of dropping off goods.

Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld said in a briefing Wednesday that the force would be watching the effect that COVID-19 is having on domestic crimes.

“We appreciate that people are cooped up and, probably more important than that, a lot of people’s … family habits and stuff that they would normally do have been interrupted,” he said. ”That could certainly have an impact.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 18, 2020

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

Laird Creek watershed logging road. Photo: Renee Hayes.
COLUMN: Healthy watersheds support resilient communities

Kendra Norwood writes about nature-based planning

Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
UPDATE: Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

This update includes the present condition of the victim and a comment from the police department

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Interior Health said its new toll-free line will help people connect to health-care services. (File)
Interior Health expands toll-free line to improve access to community care

By calling1-800-707-8550, people can be connected to several health-care services

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Most Read