Shelter Movers Nova Scotia staff ‘racking our brains’ looking for volunteers

Service helps move those affected by domestic abuse

The Nova Scotia chapter of Shelter Movers needs more volunteers, which could leave victims of domestic abuse vulnerable while they leave their abusers.

The Shelter Movers is a national non-profit organization that offers moving and storing services for people and families fleeing domestic abuse. It’s the only service of this kind in Canada. 

Without Shelter Movers’ services, their clients have to pay out of pocket to move and store their belongings. Shelter Movers works with local law enforcement and security guard volunteers to ensure the clients’ safety.

“Basically, it means that we cannot move our clients. So it could mean that someone has to stay in a dangerous situation even longer,” said Jennifer O’Neil, volunteer service manager at Shelter Movers Nova Scotia. 

O’Neil says they need at least 40 more volunteers to be able to get back on track. 

Anyone can become a volunteer, but applicants go through training and an extensive background criminal record check.

O’Neil says they cannot recruit people fast enough to meet increasing demands for their services. This has meant they sometimes cannot help every client.

“We’ve become busier and busier with more and more and more requests. So I would say it’s become basically a crisis for us.”

The organization’s operations manager, Meghan Lawrence, says they have no explanation for the low volunteer numbers.

“I have no idea, Jennifer and I and the rest of our team have been racking our brains trying to think of every possible avenue and every … reasonable explanation and we just can’t come up with anything. So, we’re just kind of grasping at straws at this point,” Lawrence said. 

O’Neil said that Lawrence did over 30 moves for clients this summer, which, she said, is not a good sign. 

Connecting services

The Shelter Movers take calls and requests mostly from HRM, South Shore, and Annapolis Valley.  They partner with moving companies, storage facilities, and shelters for those affected by domestic abuse. 

Alice House, for example, provides safe housing, counselling, and support services for people and families fleeing domestic violence.

They’ve been working alongside Shelter Movers Nova Scotia since 2019.

Program director Kira Kelly said “it’s a big barrier” when Alice House’s clients can’t get help to move out of a dangerous situation.

“It would have a significant impact on our ability for people to move quickly and safely. It’s a financial drain on the woman … there’s so many moving pieces and things that they’re paying for, so they have to pay for movers and secure movers that are safe and respectful.” 

Halifax-area Shelter Movers volunteer Adrien Smith loves to help people move, but he admits the current volunteer shortage is greatly affecting their co-ordination.

“It is just barely down to the skin of our teeth, getting every available [person] we have to try their best,” he said.

Decklan Z. Rolle

Decklan Z. Rolle is a reporter for the Signal. He is currently majoring in journalism and gaining a minor in contemporary studies at the University of King's College.

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