By Greg Price
Community services for those most vulnerable are continuing on as best as they can while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that is afflicting the province and Canada.
One of those is Safe Haven Women’s Shelter, where executive director Catherine Champagne says some adjustments have had to be made.
“We haven’t changed our services too much. We do have some restrictions from AHS as far the amount of clients we can have in the shelter. As far as the day-to-day, we are doing the same precautions as everyone else with cleaning and maintaining social distances and doing things like having one person prepare meals,” said Champagne. “But, the real push for us is outreach. They are the ones not working at the building right now, they are working at home but are also assisting their clients. So they are doing it by phone, by text, by e-mail — anyway they can in providing mobile outreach services.”
Safe Haven Women’s Shelter is making a concentrated effort that all their outreach clients are being checked up on.
“For a lot of outreach clients, their interaction with their outreach worker is their only form of social interaction. So, it can be a big barrier that they don’t have that chance to go out and do things with someone,” said Champagne. “Studies have shown with other world economic issues, whenever we have bad economic times or natural disasters, there is an increase in domestic violence. Circumstances change for people, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is at home and maybe in situations they were able to avoid beforehand. We are working to inform people who are bystanders or who are around to check in on friends and family. If they haven’t heard from them for a little bit, it can be tough for someone in that situation. Abuse comes in all forms, financial, physical, and emotional when stresses are high.”
For clients who can’t get out once a week, Safe Haven is submitting food hamper requests to the food bank for its clients. Outreach workers are picking up the hampers and dropping them off for clients while practising social distancing.
Safe Haven Women’s Shelter is encouraging people to reach out to those who are in need, with the shelter having its 24/7, 365 days a year toll free crisis line at 403-223-0483.
“We are posting a lot on social media and being out in the community to show that we are still running services as normal, so we can assist them with that,” said Champagne. “We are working really hard to maintain the services that we do have. We are constantly updating what we are providing based on recommendations from AHS and the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters. We go with what the need and the demand is. Sometimes we are having to change some of our mandates to accommodate requests that we have, but we are doing whatever we can for clients in the area. The need is there, it hasn’t changed. How it’s delivered may continue to change as this pandemic continues.”