Volunteers urgently needed in Montreal non-profit helping women flee violent homes
It has been 10 years since Nathalie Trottier made the difficult decision to leave her home, leaving behind 25 years of abuse at the hands of her spouse – but also all her property.
« When I left, I lost everything, » she recalls moving empty-handed to a women’s shelter.
That’s why a volunteer-run nonprofit that offers free moving and storage services to help women and children escape violence means so much to her — and why the lack of volunteers to respond on demand is so disturbing.
« It’s already hard to leave but when you also have to rebuild your life and also refurnish… that [organization] removes the barrier that leaves you with nothing, like in my case,” said Trottier, speaker on domestic violence and spokesperson for Shelter Movers Montreal.
The organization – called Transit Secours, in French – coordinates the logistics of the move so that victims of domestic violence can recover their belongings, free of charge and safely. The service works side-by-side with victims on moving day and hires security guards to ensure the safety of the victim and volunteers.
Clients are referred to the organization by community organizations, including women’s shelters, CLSCs, social workers and other professionals working with victims of domestic violence. Shelter Movers has six locations, including a Montreal chapter that was launched during the pandemic in the fall of 2020, when the number of domestic violence cases spiked dramatically.
According to a Quebec study, more than one in six Quebec women in a couple experienced some form of domestic violence in October 2021. The Montreal region was the most affected, with 22.5% of respondents having experienced domestic violence this month. -the.
During moving day in Quebec, the demand for Shelter Movers Montreal’s services skyrocketed. But staff say some upcoming moves may have to be postponed if more volunteers do not step in, while other families could find themselves without support for months.
« Much more than material things »
Renata Fuchs Militzer, Shelter Movers chapter director for the Montreal area, says being able to get your things out of an abusive home helps break the cycle of violence for victims of domestic abuse.
« They don’t have that connection to home in the same way, and so in that sense it’s a lot more than just material things, » she said. It also breaks some of the barrier of financial insecurity that often makes women feel like they have no choice but to stay with their abusers, she said.
Currently, there is a two-month waiting list for Shelter Movers Montreal services due to a lack of volunteers. Fuchs Militzer estimates that about 50% of people who contact her cancel their move or don’t return for services because the wait is too long.
« We are still very concerned about these families. What have they been up to in the meantime? » she says. She fears that many women will return to their attackers.
LISTEN: The director of Shelter Movers Montreal explains how the service works:
Dawn Montreal11:43Volunteers needed to help women and children in situations of domestic violence
Hélène Langevin, executive director of La Maison Simonne-Monet-Chartrand women’s shelter, which helps victims of domestic violence, says Shelter Movers Montreal is a « critical need » for survivors. She says her partnership with them completes a chain that has been missing a key link for years.
« Shelter Movers bring the woman out with her stuff, they put that stuff in a warehouse, they bring us the women to put in our shelter, and [then they] may have a place in a second-stage home,” Langevin said.
« So that stops him from saying, ‘OK, I don’t have any money, I can’t move, I don’t have anywhere to live, I can’t pay, so maybe I better go back to my partner.’ »
« It really makes a huge difference, » she said.
Need at least 200 volunteers
Shelter Movers Montreal relies heavily on volunteers, says Fuchs Militzer, because it takes at least five hours of coordination in advance to complete a move, as well as at least five people on the ground on moving day.
« Right now we have 70 volunteers who are movers and drivers and we have about 34 administrative volunteers, » she said.
“It would take between 200 and 250 volunteers to be able to do between 15 and 20 moves [per month]. Right now we’re averaging 13…but we’d really like to increase that. »
The organization asks people to commit to one move per month for 12 months.
While Langevin says the initiative is « fantastic, » she says more is needed in other regions of Quebec. She says the Quebec government also needs to be more open-minded and willing to fund other initiatives to help victims of domestic violence, such as women’s shelters that will also take in animals, which are sometimes used as pawns for encourage victims to come home.
Ms Trottier, meanwhile, hopes victims of domestic abuse know there is support and encourages them to seek help from shelters and support services as soon as possible.
« Don’t wait 25 years like me, » she said. « It meant losing everything [when I left]but look at me today, I have everything to gain from having managed to get out of it, » she said.
« If I can do it, anyone can do it. »
If you are affected by domestic violence, SOS violence conjugale is a province-wide toll-free crisis line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach them at 1-800-363-9010 by phone or text at 438-601-1211