Shelter Movers Nova Scotia has been serving communities within the Halifax Regional Municipality since July 2019. The demand for our services is high within Nova Scotia and it has been our goal to expand our services to the rest of the province. A few weeks ago we expanded to a rural community on the south shore of the province. Our Bridgewater location is the first rural expansion of a Shelter Movers chapter in Canada.
Launching the first rural chapter presents us with unique challenges and opportunities. But, with the help of our community partners, donors, and other supporters, we can make this expansion a success and connect with more survivors of gender-based violence in Nova Scotia.
Our Bridgewater hub is only an hour away from Halifax, but the moves we do here will be different than moves we do in the city. Move days will be longer because there will be longer driving distances. Many of the homes on the south shore are larger, which means more belongings to move. The houses are older too, so our moves teams will have to navigate narrow hallways and more stairs.
The population of the south shore is much smaller than Halifax and everyone seems to know everyone else. In Bridgewater, we can’t depend on the anonymity of big cities. Our volunteers may know the clients or the abuser, so we established protocols to protect the privacy and security of our clients. Gun ownership is typically higher in rural areas as well, so we’re taking that into consideration for our security protocols.
Building Our Team
The smaller, and older, population in Bridgewater also means that there are fewer potential volunteers who live in the area. We tailored our marketing and recruitment strategies to reach our rural audience and we created a solid, albeit small, team of movers in the area.
As well, some of our volunteers from Halifax have agreed to help out on moves on the South Shore when needed.
Part of our ongoing recruitment and retention strategy in Bridgewater is to develop education programs around gender-based violence issues. GBV is often a hidden issue. Women in rural areas experience the highest overall rates of intimate partner violence. Rural crime rates for intimate partner violence are 1.8 times higher than in urban areas.*
Working With The Community
Survivors are often geographically and socially isolated. Internet access and public transportation are often lacking in rural communities, making it challenging for survivors to connect with resources that can help them leave violent situations.
We are working closely with community partners, including Harbour House, a transition house in Bridgewater, and Second Story Women’s Centre, who will connect us with our referrals. We also established positive relationships with other community partners like Be the Peace Institute, which researches issues around gender-based violence, and the Bridgewater Police Service and the RCMP, both of which will provide security on escorted moves. U-Haul will provide vehicles and GardaWorld will provide security.
One of the benefits of working on the expansion to the south shore are the relationships we’ve already built in the community. As we reach out to people and organizations working in the region we often discover that they’ve heard about our work. In small-town Nova Scotia word travels fast and these connections will help us grow quickly.
The obstacles we face expanding to the south shore are surmountable. Bridgewater has a good network of organizations that work together to support survivors of gender-based violence and Shelter Movers Nova Scotia is proud to be part of that team. Through the Bridgewater expansion we are learning lessons that we can use at Shelter Movers chapters across the country to help survivors everywhere.
*Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2018