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

Upper Fraser Valley RCMP re-open community policing offices

CPOs have been closed for weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but re-opened Tuesday

RCMP ask for assistance to find missing Chilliwack man

Raymond Gene Jarvis has been missing since early July

Popkum fire chief urges caution after Saturday rescue from Bridal Veil Falls

11-year-old boy was stable, fire chief Walter Roos said, when delivered to a waiting ambulance

Chilliwack RCMP seeing surge in telephone-based tax scam

Victims are phoned by someone claiming to represent the Canada Revenue Agency, demanding money

Chilliwack Chiefs alum Jordan Kawaguchi named captain of North Dakota Fighting Hawks

The high scoring forward will lead UND into the 2020-21 NCAA Div-1 hockey season

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Thousands of dollars of stolen rice traced to Langley warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

UPDATE: Mission spray park closed after children suffer swollen eyes, burns

Mission RCMP are investigating incident that injured several children

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, also a first for B.C.

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

19 times on 19th birthday: Langley teen goes from crutches to conquering Abby Grind

Kaden Van Buren started at midnight on Saturday. By 3 p.m. he had completed the trek 19 times.

Most Read