An organization that helps women and children escape domestic abuse is struggling to keep up with demand.
After launching in Toronto in 2016 and opening additional chapters in Vancouver and Ottawa, Shelter Movers — which provides free moving services — expanded to the Halifax area in June 2019.
The group’s executive director, Marc Hull-Jacquin, said a team of 70 volunteers now moves three to four families every week in HRM alone.
Hull-Jacquin told NEWS 95.7’s The Sheldon MacLeod Show, it takes courage to leave an abusive situation and there are many barriers, including potentially having to leave behind everything you own.
“Really, Shelter Movers is the only service of its kind in Canada, so if we’re not doing this, if our volunteers are not helping women leave, they’re going to a women’s shelter or they’re going to a friend’s house with pretty much whatever they can carry in their hands, and to us and most people, that’s unacceptable,” he said. “We can do better than that.”
According to the organization, 83 per cent of people who experience violence are women, and each year police receive reports of 1,113 incidents of violence against women per every 100,000 people.
Shelter Movers is available by a referral from shelter staff — including Bryony House and Alice House — social workers, healthcare providers, community-based organizations and police.
“The first step is to find a safe place to go and have that location call us and let us know that we’re needed, then we’ll activate a team of volunteers,” said Hull-Jacquin.
The volunteer team goes beyond movers and truck drivers. Hull-Jacquin said it can also include storage, language interpreters or pet fosters depending on the situation, which is all coordinated by Shelter Movers.
Hull-Jacquin said the safety of volunteers is a top priority and they often operate when they know the abuser will be gone.
JOLCAR Security donates security guards for protection, and if there’s an elevated risk, the group sometimes contacts RCMP or Halifax Regional Police to assist.
“Because of our relationships with donated storage facilities like Apple Storage and Metro Self Storage, or our donated trucks from Avis Budget — they give us all of our trucks at no cost — it helps keep our costs very, very low,” he said.
Shelter Movers relies on donations to operate and moving one family costs about $200, however Hull-Jacquin said the need for financial support and volunteers grows every month.
“We have a policy of helping anyone who calls us, but it’s our ability to respond quickly that really matters,” Hull-Jacquin said. “These are survivors that need quick action and we need to be able to respond sometimes within a few hours to help them leave when it’s safe for them to do so.”
Those interest in helping can find more information at sheltermovers.com.
Originally published on January 2, 2020 at HalifaxToday.ca