Shelter eNewsletter Summer 2020 Helping women and children rebuild their lives after violence.
Posted on July 14, 2020 by Marie Taverna
Helping women and children rebuild their lives after violence.
Message from our Executive Director
I hope this email finds you and your loved ones in good physical and mental health. This has been a year like no other. Much has changed in terms of our day-to-day lives. We've been restricted in terms of our ability to interact with others, be spontaneous in our movements, and in how we carry out our work. In many respects, our lives have moved online, behind closed doors. But what hasn't changed, thankfully, is our humanity in times of need.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it was heart-warming to hear from so many of our supporters asking what they could do for their local women’s shelters. Always thinking of how they can help others and serve their communities, our supporters have shown us once again how committed they are to making sure home is a safe place for everyone.
In the early days of the pandemic, we heard from many women's shelters across the country that the demand for their services had increased. The stress and volatility of "lockdown" meant that abuse was occurring more frequently and the violence was getting more severe. Women's shelters had to rapidly adapt how they deliver services, all while doing so in the context of reduced budgets due to cancelled fundraising events. You'll read more in this issue about how women's shelters have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how Royal LePage Shelter Foundation supporters have stepped up to help.
On a personal note, I wanted to let you know of another transition taking place. After nine and a half years, I will be stepping down as Executive Director of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation. I can't say enough about how proud I am of the incredible impact this organization has had on countless women's and children's lives, with your support. I know that everything I have learned will help me in my new role to continue to make a positive impact in communities across the country. I am confident that with the strong Royal LePage Shelter Foundation team and our dedicated supporters, the foundation will continue to flourish. Thank you to everyone who I have met over the past decade. You have inspired me. It's been my privilege and honour to work alongside you to create safer homes and communities.
Giving back during COVID-19
Royal LePage professionals raise over $125,000 in response to pandemic
Since 1998, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation has been dedicated to helping women and children seeking safety due to domestic violence. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, our supporters once again gave generously of their time and resources, raising over $125,000 for the foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.
While this crisis has affected us all, women and children experiencing abuse face unique challenges. When our supporters learned that the severity of domestic violence was increasing, that many shelters needed to rent additional space to meet social distancing guidelines, and that children staying in shelters needed supplies and support to keep up with their classmates, they jumped into action.
Online fundraising challenges, virtual events and social media campaigns have taken place across Canada, with Royal LePage professionals hosting and performing live concerts; cutting their own hair and shaving their beards; organizing online game nights and fitness classes; offering gifts and households goods; sewing masks; and partnering with local businesses to provide unique offerings – all in exchange for donations to the cause.
Numerous collections were also taken up by Royal LePage brokerages and agents, with some promoting matching gift opportunities to their clients which doubled the impact of their generosity. When Royal LePage’s National Garage Sale for Shelter was unable to proceed for the first time in twelve years, our agents and brokers answered the call to make modest “Garage Sale sized” donations in order to help replace this lost revenue. In addition, Royal LePagers organized donations of essential supplies to their local women’s shelters, including toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cloth masks.
Coming together during this crisis shows how we can all make a difference. We're very grateful for the continued support of our many Shelter "champions".
COVID-19 Pandemic - Issues and Insights
This public health crisis has affected all Canadians and has presented unique challenges for women experiencing domestic violence and the heroes helping them find safety. Below is a summary of what we’ve heard from our shelter partners in communities across the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives and businesses upside down and almost overnight our worlds have become a great deal smaller as we practice physical distancing. While all this change can feel unsettling, what most of us know for certain is that we are safe in our own homes and with the people who live there.
Unfortunately, home is not a safe place for everyone. Each night, thousands of Canadian women and children stay in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence and, on average, every 6 days in this country a woman is killed by her current or former intimate partner.
Increased violence and abuse
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic created a “perfect storm” for domestic violence to increase. Physical distancing means some women have been in the presence of their abusers 24/7 when stress and worry have been at an all-time high. In some cases, job loss and economic uncertainty created even more volatile circumstances at home. Public settings like libraries and community centres - where women and children might go to be away from an abuser - have been closed for months on end and visiting family or friends wasn't permitted. Over the past few months, women have had fewer opportunities to be away from the person harming them.
There are also fewer ways out of these dangerous situations. During the early days of the pandemic, some shelters reported that their hotlines were going quiet. This was very concerning because it meant women couldn’t safely call to get help. Where once a woman could call a crisis line while her partner was at work, now women are making these life-saving calls while their abuser sleeps in the next room. This is especially dangerous as a woman being abused is at the greatest risk of being killed when her plan to leave is revealed and her abuser realizes they've lost control.
How shelters have adjusted
Shelters are committed to maintaining their lifesaving front-line services;however, the way they must now operate has been highly disruptive to “normal” life in the shelter. Distancing measures are in place within shelters, which means women and their children spend more time in their rooms, and have scheduled use of communal spaces like kitchens and TV rooms, which are now being cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant. At some shelters, new residents must self-isolate for 14 days in their room or are being moved to hotels (at significant cost) to meet social distancing guidelines. While not ideal, support groups and community-based programming has moved online and some shelters have been able to offer text support to women in the community.
Keeping a "household" full of children occupied who are unable to access community programs has also presented a challenge for mothers in the shelter and the staff supporting them. Helping children who are used to interacting freely with one another understand why they can no longer play together has been especially difficult.
To reduce the spread of the virus, most shelters are not accepting donations of gently used items like clothing, toys or household goods. This means they must buy everything they need, which can be incredibly costly.
Lastly, shelters have grappled with staffing challenges. Without access to sufficient personal protective equipment, workers have been worried for their health and the health of the families they serve. Some shelter staff must travel on public transportation and have their own child care issues or family responsibilities that make it more difficult to work during this time. Paying overtime to those staff willing and able to work has represented yet another significant and unexpected expense for our shelter partners.
Why financial support is important
All women’s shelters must fundraise to meet their operating costs, some as much as 50% of their annual budget. The additional costs associated with COVID-19 combined with the cancellation of hundreds of fundraising events and the concern that longstanding donors will need to pause their support for economic reasons means that many shelters are projecting budget deficits for 2020 and beyond. While most shelters have been eligible for approximately $32,000 in emergency funding from the federal government, many if not all, will still suffer incredible financial repercussions.
Bottom line? Our shelters are worried and with good reason. Our support is essential now more than ever. Please see below for more information about how you can help. Together, we can ensure that women and children fleeing violence continue to find safe shelter and the support they need to rebuild their lives throughout this crisis and beyond.
How can you help?
There are several ways to make a difference for your local women's shelter during this difficult time.
Make a donation at rlp.ca/donate to our Emergency COVID-19 fundraising campaign. As always, 100% of your donation will go to our shelter partners to help them weather this storm. Share on social media that you've made a donation and encourage others to do the same.
Send a note of appreciation or encouragement to your local shelter staff and, if you are able, enclose a gift card to help them buy essential goods or special items for the women and children they serve. This is also a great activity for your kids! Mailing addresses for most shelters can be found on their website (find your local shelter at sheltersafe.ca).
Shelter Awards recognize those who have made an outstanding contribution to the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation. Nominated by their peers, below are the 2019 winners who were honoured at provincial awards events in early 2020.
Philanthropists of the Year
Angie Peters & John Krol, Royal LePage The Realty Group (pictured below with Shanan Spencer-Brown and Royal LePage president and CEO, Phil Soper)
Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all who sent in nominations!
Supporting a friend who may be experiencing violence
Signal for Help
The Signal for Help initiative was launched by the our partner, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, in response to COVID-19. If you see someone use the Signal for Help, check in with the person safely to find out what they need and want you to do.
If you’re concerned about a friend or family member who may be experiencing domestic violence, visit sheltersafe.ca to find the crisis line for a women’s shelter in your community. The experts you'll speak to can best advise on potential next steps and critical safety planning.
Staying consistently in touch with a woman who is being abused in self-isolation is also very important. Avoid referencing the abuse in any text messages or emails you exchange as these may be monitored by the abuser. It is recommended to ask general questions like "How are you?" over email/text and yes/no questions over the phone like "Would you like me to call a shelter for you?"
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency services.
Thank you to our National Sponsors!
Helping to bring safety and hope to families across the country
The Royal LePage Shelter Foundation is fortunate to be supported by generous individuals and businesses that are committed to helping women and children live free from violence.
We would like to make special mention of our National Sponsors who have
supported us for many years. They help make our national events, including the National Garage Sale for Shelter, possible. While we have not been able to be together in person this year, we are deeply grateful for their loyalty and the trust they place in us to help create safer homes and communities.
Join us on a "trip" to the Sahara Desert
We may not be able to travel at the moment, but we hope you'll go on a trip with us back to Morocco! We're delighted to share the videos from our Sahara Desert Challenge for Sheltertrek that took place last November. We hope the videos give you a sense of this epic adventure, the fierce determination of our trekkers, and the strong bonds that were built over the course of hiking 100 km across this vast desert in 5 days.
We remain deeply grateful for the generosity of all those who donated to the Sahara Desert Challenge for Shelter. Together, we raised more than $1.1 million to help women and children find safety from abuse and to fund programs that prevent domestic violence before it starts.
Click here to review a list of the four groups to help you identify the video that features a trekker you know!
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