The UN calls it the ‘shadow pandemic’—the sharp increase in domestic abuse due to people being trapped at home during the lockdown.
Before the pandemic, partner violence affected an estimated one in three women in Canada during her lifetime. Cases are estimated to have increased by 20% because of Covid-19. Faced with this surge in demand, the Grand Bend Community Foundation supported the Huron Women’s Shelter as part of its response to Covid-19.
Krista Evely, Manager of Fund Development, says the increase in domestic violence is not just an urban problem. “People in rural areas are more isolated than ever during the pandemic,” she says. “If you’re living with an abusive partner who is unemployed, you may not be able to leave the house or make a private phone call. Plus, reduced hours and closures of public spaces such as libraries or employment centres make it harder to reach out for service and support.”
Huron Women’s Shelter provides much-needed services, including a Goderich shelter for high-risk women, Second Stage housing (apartments) in Exeter, Clinton and Goderich, and counselling and community outreach. Partially funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Huron County Housing and United way, the agency also counts on community fundraising.
Because of COVID-19, the organization had to respond to a dizzying array of new protocols. The number of beds in the Goderich shelter was reduced to enable more social distancing, staff at the shelter worked 24-hour shifts to reduce the number of people coming and going, and staff at second stage housing buildings restricted their visits to once a week. The major fundraiser, an arts and crafts festival, had to be cancelled, creating financial pressures. Remarkably, the agency turned a difficult situation into an opportunity for reflection and adaptation. Says Evely: “Although very challenging, the pandemic has provided us with a little bit of space to step back and look at the services we provide. This has allowed time to adapt, refocus and be more creative in supporting women and children.”
The Grand Bend Community Foundation provided a grant to Second Stage Housing in Exeter to provide food gift cards for the residents, and to purchase a freezer to store donated food. An additional $10,000 grant supported services across the organization. “We’re proud to support this wonderful organization,” says Chair Deb Gill. “During COVID, Huron Women’s Shelter stepped up to offer hope to women in our communities, and we were able to help them do so.”