December 3, 2020
Family Violence Consortium Urges Caution with Unsupported Hotel Stays
For almost a year, the city – and the world – have been in the throes of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time a hidden pandemic has been quietly raging – one of gender-based violence. Orders to stay home and stay isolated have increased risk for people who are experiencing violence inside their home. Social service agencies have been impacted by provincial health orders and service delivery looks different then it did pre-pandemic. Many may be confused about where to reach out for help or what resources are available. The Family Violence Consortium of Manitoba continues to support people who are experiencing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Family Violence Consortium of Manitoba (FVCM) is a coalition of agencies across the province who are skilled at supporting people who are experiencing violence. The network of 10 provincially-funded shelters, four second stage housing options and nine women’s resource centres have trained staff available to support people through the trauma of what they have endured. ces Services include early safety planning, counselling, connection to resources, access to safe transportation and both emergency shelter and supportive housing options. Programming is trauma informed and is uniquely designed to meet the needs of the people who require support. There is no one size fits all solution and while not all options will be appropriate, there are a variety of resources available.
Kari Prawdzik, the Executive Director of The Parkland Crisis Centre & Women’s Shelter, 1 of 10 shelters in Manitoba, says, “Shelters remain open and available 24/7 for those experiencing domestic or family violence during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are a phone call or text message away.”
There has been recent media around alternative options made available to women in the form of hotel stays. While the offers are well intended and there is a recognition that more needs to be invested in safe spaces for women fleeing violence, there are many concerns that need to be considered. Supporting people who have been victims of violence requires much more than providing a room. Having staff skilled in trauma informed care is critical, especially in the early days of exiting violence, as this is often a known time for escalated violence. Knowing how and where to connect people to ongoing supports is also essential.
Publicizing the location of where a woman is staying who has fled violence risks the safety of not only the woman herself but of any of the other guests currently staying at the hotel. Shelters intentionally do not make their locations known and hotels that work in partnership with the FVCM do so quietly, so as to ensure the safety of all involved. When the location of these safe places have been widely publicized, that safety is compromised.
“Protecting and ensuring the safety of women accessing our services is of paramount importance for us. Whether they are on site here with us or connected to a stay in a hotel, ensuring that their privacy is maintained and their location is hidden helps us to ensure that safety,” says Kim Fontaine, Executive Director of Ikwe-Widdjiitiwin.
One of the most critical pieces of support that a person needs in a time of crisis is choice. This includes the choice of whether or not to involve police in their situation. Many do not have a trusting relationship with police and data shows that police investigations, particularly those that lead to court trials, are often rife with increased levels of trauma for victims of violence. The decision to involve police is one that should be made in consultation with victims when they are ready to do so – never forced – and people should be supported to access police services, if they so choose. In addition, services that do not employ a harm reduction approach fail to recognize the impacts of trauma and will often prevent people from asking for the help that they may desperately need.
“Often the folks who have the fewest resources available to them when fleeing violence are those who use substances – whether that use is problematic or not. Substance use should never be a barrier to ensuring a person’s safety. Here at the centre and at some of our other partner agencies, we have options available to ensure that substance use will not prevent access to critical resources and support,” said Lorie English, Executive Director of West Central Women’s Resource Centre.
These times are challenging for all Manitobans. Orders to stay home are only the right choice if home is a safe place. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence and requires support, please reach out to the provincial crisis line by phone at 1-877-977-0007. You can also text for help to 204-792-5302 or 204-805-6682 to be connected to appropriate services.
For more information please contact the Family Violence Consortium of Manitoba:
On behalf of Family Violence Emergency Shelters:
Deena Brock, Provincial Coordinator for Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters (MAWS) (204) 430-4346
On behalf of Women’s Resource Centres:
Lorie English, Executive Director at West Central Women’s Resource Centre (204) 509-1030
On behalf of Transitional Housing:
Dana Riccio Arabe, Executive Director at Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc. (204) 479-1826