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

Deadline passes for ‘unattractive’ Port Alberni building

Squash and Billiards Club on Third Avenue has been under construction for several years

Teachers in Port Alberni show the love for their students

Virtual message meant to give families hope in uncertain times

Port Alberni’s Judy Plater works magic with a chainsaw

Bald eagle carving unveiled at Alberni Valley Golf Club

EDITORIAL: Port Alberni’s loud thanks well deserved

Stay at home, stay the course so we can beat coronavirus

ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre looking for artists to exhibit in 2021

Gallery is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Fake test kits and other COVID online scams play on public anxiety: fraud centre

Vancouver has seen a spike in commercial property crimes, with offices and stores empty because of COVID-19

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Feds amplify stay-home message as cost of financial aid to Canadians mounts

Liberals have unveiled around $200B in direct financial aid and tax deferrals

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

World COVID-19 update: Six million U.S. jobless claims; Russia sends medical aid to U.S.

Comprehensive update with COVID-19 news from around the world

Most Read