The Mid-Island organization Haven Society has seen an uptick in calls to its crisis line.
Toni Wheeler, executive director, said since COVID-19 restrictions have started to ease up, demand for services has done the opposite.
The organization’s vision is, “to work together with our community to end violence against women, and to create and support a safe community for all of us.” They provide a variety of programs and services that help people find access to emergency services, including shelter.
In terms of how much calls have increased, Wheller said it’s hard to say.
“It’s too fluid in nature in terms of our response to COVID, every day is a new day, I can tell you though that we are seeing an increase in calls that are coming to our crisis line,” said Wheeler. “That would involve all clients that are calling, whether they end up housed in Parksville, our safe house, or the transition house here in Nanaimo.”
Also tricky to put a finger on is the ‘why?’ While there have been some reports on domestic violence calls increasing due to people being isolated in homes with abusive partners, Wheller said it could be the same reason why people aren’t calling. Being in an unstable home environment could make it more difficult to find privacy or comfort to reach out for help. Wheller also said it could be because people don’t feel comfortable accessing services during COVID-19, but said she can only speculate.
“It could be a reason why people weren’t wanting to move into a communal living environment in the middle of the pandemic, it’s really difficult for me to be able to state that,” she said. “As is why we’re becoming increasingly busy, I can only surmise.”
Wheeler said the uptick in calls, regardless of reason, makes the organization concerned. She wants to remind people of the resources available to them, which have been continuously offered through COVID-19, with some changes.
“We have Stopping the Violence program, we have an outreach program for women who are at risk or are experiencing homelessness,” she said. “Services are still available – we have community victim services and we have an office right in Parksville for our community victim services… and of course our safe house and our transition house.”
Wheller said she wants anyone who didn’t access services during the onset of COVID-19 to know that Haven Society is operating and ready to help.
“I would want them to know they’re not alone, that we’re here to help them, that we’re here to assist them with safety planning, I would want them to know that we have a crisis line that they can call 24/7 and that crisis line number is 1-888-756-0616,” she said.
“And I would want them to know that there’s someone on the other end to assist them to make their own choices of what will work for them.”