Shelter for abuse victims reports COVID-19 impact on operations to StatCan

Vancouver –

A new report from Statistics Canada says one in three shelters for people fleeing abuse said they were hit hard during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report uses data from 557 Canadian shelters taken on April 14, 2021, to represent a typical day of operation.

Accommodation is the biggest pandemic-related challenge, with 61% of facilities reporting a reduction in beds to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

The report, released Tuesday, found that 93 percent of residents are in facilities for abuse-related reasons and 84 percent of them are fleeing intimate partner violence.

Crisis calls are up 49 percent from pre-pandemic, and some shelters say they have expanded services to connect with victims digitally, including by text message.

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women Support Services in BC, said she was not surprised by the statistics.

“This confirms what we’ve been through, and it’s very valuable in that it captures the concerns people have about intimate partner violence and domestic violence. It also confirms ways that service providers need to be agile,” she said.

“As many of these things are being asserted and verified, it is difficult to know what effect this information will have in terms of public policy on gender-based violence both at the federal and regional levels.”

The report said shelter admissions were down 31 percent from 2017-18, but it noted several barriers at the start of the pandemic for those escaping violence, including concerns about virus infection.

Kaitlin Geiger-Bardswich, communications director for Shelter Canada, said the government’s messaging at the start of the pandemic had led to confusion in accessing shelters.

“Isolation is an abuser’s dream and in a sense this is state-sponsored isolation, which is important to do in terms of health measures, but still not enough to reduce the risk or make it worse.” appropriate message.”

Geiger-Bardswich commends the government for providing approximately $100 million to their organization for distribution to shelters nationwide, excluding Quebec, starting April 2020 and ending March 2020. 2023. But they are concerned about what could happen to the services once she said.

“We fear it will go away because COVID doesn’t seem to go away and the violence doesn’t seem to be abating.”

Geiger-Bardswich said the report also highlights the need for the federal government to begin implementing the National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence.

She said the organization submitted a detailed report, funded by the government, in April 2021, making recommendations for an action plan to unify the country on its response to domestic violence. .

Geiger-Bardswich said they have not yet been told when the plan will be completed and implementation will begin.

“A woman’s right to access services should not depend on her postal code, and that is the situation here in Canada.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on April 12, 2022.

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