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Strain from pandemic felt by Barrie’s women and children shelter, and population served

'When you add the stress of COVID to an already volatile, stressful situation, it makes it that much more worse'

The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie and the population being served have felt the strain from the pandemic in many ways, including financially.

Teresa MacLennan, executive director of the shelter, told Barrie 360 that due to pandemic restrictions, and less work, a lot of women were forced to stay home with their abusers.

“We definitely saw an increase of calls to our crisis line, and we definitely saw an increase in the intensity of those calls,” said MacLennan. “When you add the stress of COVID to an already volatile, stressful situation, it makes it that much more worse.”

The current economic climate has impacted organizations like the Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie, with MacLennan saying it’s been difficult for them to reach fundraising goals to provide support for those in the shelter.

“Without being able to do live events, without being able to really ask people for donations of finances – because they were hurting as well during COVID – It’s been an especially difficult time for us financially,” MacLennan said. “We want to make sure that we’re creating as much as a home life atmosphere for the women and children who come to us.

“And so, we don’t want them to have to worry about their meals, their hygiene, how they’re going to get to appointments, their transportation … we want to make sure that we can take care of that as much as we can for them.”

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services provides about 60 per cent of the shelter’s base funding. MacLennan noted because they are always overcapacity, they have to raise more dollars than ever.

“We’re only supposed to be a 27-bed shelter, but we have closer to 35 come in,” said MacLennan. “We try to meet the needs of as many women as possible, and so the funding that we receive is only for the 27 beds – that’s not enough for the 27 beds. So now that we’re closer to 35, providing that support, our financial need is much greater.”

According to MacLennan, they have to raise about $350,000 yearly to maintain services and supports.

“We’ve seen full capacity during the pandemic because we are a violence against women shelter, we are not allowed to close our doors,” said MacLennan. “And so, also recognizing that the violence escalated during the pandemic, we needed to keep our doors open.”

The executive director says they have seen a constant flow, and even an increase, in the number of women calling their crisis line.

“We’re hearing more often the seriousness of the abuse that women are living in, and the ramped-up violence that they’re experiencing.”

This year, the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug MartTM program is supporting the Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie till October 14 through in-store and online donations, which can be made here.

MacLennan says programs like LOVE YOU are crucial for the shelter to provide basic necessities for the women and children who come in for services.

If you are interested in knowing more about the shelter and its programs, or want to support women in need in the community, visit Barrieshelter.com.

“That support directly impacts the success of the women and the kids here,” said MacLennan. “And we can really create a new life for those kids especially that they’re going to live in an environment that is free of violence.

“We want everyone to be successful who comes through our doors, and we can only do that with the support of the community.”

Banner image via the Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie Website

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