A free moving service for women and families fleeing domestic abuse has moved over 60 families in Halifax, far more than the organization expected when it launched in the city in July.
Shelter Movers had expected to move two families a week. From the first week, though, it has been moving three to four families.
“The demand for the service is far greater than we anticipated,” says executive director Marc Hull-Jacquin.
He says the calls they have received have been cases of higher risk than they usually get in their other cities of operation.
In 2013, Statistics Canada analyzed reports of violence against women and found that Nova Scotia experienced the greatest increase in number of shelters for abused women across the country.
Shelter Movers has done 20 of the 60 moves with Alice House, which works as second stage housing for women and their children fleeing domestic violence. The families stay for a year to two years while finding their own homes.
Heather Byrne, executive director of Alice House, says a partnership like this is important because it makes it affordable for women to take their belongings with them when they leave.
“There are a number of barriers and complexities to leaving domestic violence situations, and certainly being able to move your belongings and start over somewhere else is one of those barriers,” says Byrne. “Even one of them being brought down by a group like this with no cost is important.”
The system works through referrals. Shelter Movers can get referrals from shelters, children’s agencies, police, doctors, health-care providers, and mental health providers. Once the group receives a referral, it gets in contact with the client and plans the move.
The clients don’t have to pay for the moving service, but each move costs the group around $200.
Hull-Jacquin says Shelter Movers has approximately 70 volunteers, but needs roughly 45 to 50 more to operate and meet the demand. While many companies and individuals have stepped up to help, without more support it may not be able to continue.
“We are doing twice as many moves as we anticipated so our funds are quickly dwindling. We’re not going to make it through the year without more support,” says Hull-Jacquin.
Shelter Movers has completed nearly 1,000 moves since starting in Toronto in 2016. It also operates in Ottawa and Vancouver, and anticipates being in seven cities by the end of 2020.
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