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Victim support group sets up chapter in region

Shelter Movers volunteers help domestic violence victims deal with moving to new locations. [Submitted]

A national non-profit group that supports those who’ve experience gender-based and domestic violence is setting up in Waterloo Region. This would be the sixth chapter of Shelter Movers, which assists women and children fleeing abuse with moving and storage.

The organization currently operates in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal and Nova Scotia.

There’s a need for its services in Waterloo Region, the agency says.

“Shelter Movers was invited to Waterloo Region because the community knows the need for this service is great. We look forward to supporting survivors on their journey to a life free of violence”, said Marc Hull-Jacquin, founder and executive director of Shelter Movers. 

The region was a prime location given that the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area has been deemed the least safe place for women to live among Canada’s 26 metropolitan regions, with 16 calls for domestic violence made daily to police. Additionally, approximately 272 women and nearly 200 children require shelter use yearly in the area. 

Expanding operations is no simple venture and has been more challenging during a year of pandemic, but fleeing abuse without the help of an organization like Shelter Movers during this time is even more of a challenge, he said.

The group estimates it has helped move and support 2,000 families, averaging about 100 families a month through its chapters, adding the need for service has doubled since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.

Although the three cities in the region were listed as some of the most dangerous places for women in the country, Shelter Movers is here for those living in and around the area in the townships.

“While we have typically started our chapters in more metropolitan areas, we certainly do attempt to service anyone who we have access to,” said Amanda Levine, chair of Shelter Movers Waterloo chapter.

Referrals to the program will be made through partner organizations in the region that are currently being solidified, such as Woolwich Community Services, Women’s Crises Services Waterloo Region and working in cooperation with the Waterloo Regional Police Services.

The group has been operating in the region since December, with an event marking the first move held January 21.

“The goal of the launch event really is to introduce ourselves to the community. We look to work very closely with social service agencies in the unique communities that we were in. Therefore, we want to make sure that we have a presence there and that they’re aware of that we’re in the area so that we can communicate, and work together to really fill any gaps that might be existing in services already,” said Levine.

The event will also feature a survivor from Toronto who’ll share their story and their experience with the group.

“We try to ensure that the survivor and her experiences are really at the forefront of everything that we do. So, it will be sort of lend a clearer understanding of the experience of intimate partner violence and how services like Shelter Movers can make a difference,” she said.

Levine also encourages anyone interested in volunteering to reach out to the organization on their website (sheltermovers.ca), and the organization is hoping to expand its volunteer pool due to increased demand. She is also encouraging those that may benefit from the team’s help to reach out as well. 

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