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Give Me Shelter: Alberta mother encourages others to support after fleeing abuse

Click to play video: 'Give Me Shelter: Alberta woman encourages others to support after fleeing abuse'
Give Me Shelter: Alberta woman encourages others to support after fleeing abuse
Each year, more is done to lower the number of women and children fleeing domestic violence to shelters across Alberta, including Global Edmonton’s Give Me Shelter campaign. For one woman in Edmonton, support like that helped change her and her daughters lives. Jasmine King reports. – Dec 6, 2023

Wednesday, Dec. 6, marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Each year more is done to lower the number of women and children seeking shelter across our province, including Global Edmonton’s Give Me Shelter campaign.

For 20 years, Global News has been collecting donations via our annual Give Me Shelter campaign to help women and children who are escaping domestic abuse this holiday season and now, in 2023, the need could not be greater.

Each year, thousands of women and children seek safety at one of the Edmonton and area women’s shelters.

Those people include Daphne Meilleur, 22 years ago. At the time she thought she had nowhere left to turn.

“Where I was I couldn’t even walk because it was so far to get to anything. I had no one to talk to, no relatives, nobody,” said Meilleur.

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She had a nine-year-old daughter and was pregnant with her second. She was in an abusive relationship and felt captive, until she spoke to her doctor.

“When I went to see my doctor, I told the doctor the problems I was having and he put me through to a counsellor. Then when I talked to a counsellor they put me through to the shelter,” Meilleur said.

But one of the hardest parts was finally making the call to a women’s shelter.

“I was scared of what would happen once I did it, I had to be ready. When I was ready that’s when I did it,” said Meilleur and she never looked back.

“I felt safe. I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I wasn’t alone anymore.”

Click to play video: 'Give Me Shelter: Alberta woman who fled abusive marriage now helps others at WIN House'
Give Me Shelter: Alberta woman who fled abusive marriage now helps others at WIN House

Meilleur is just one of many who sought shelter after facing abuse. More is being done to bring awareness to the number of people facing these issues.

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“We really need to think about where are we today and what can we do. It’s not just a day to reflect. I think it’s a day people really have to be called to activism. We need people’s hearts, we need their minds but we need their activism to say this is not OK,” said Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.

Click to play video: 'Sounding the alarm: Domestic violence trending upward in Alberta'
Sounding the alarm: Domestic violence trending upward in Alberta

A report released by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) said that from April 2022 to the end of March 2023, there were more than 59,000 calls for help answered by the shelters, which is a 10-year high.

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Shelters could not, however, accommodate another 30,000 requests for admission, which is also the highest number in the past decade, due to the lack of shelter space and growing complex needs of some survivors.

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With such demand for help, campaigns like Give Me Shelter can provide more women and children in our community with more opportunities to flee abuse.

“We’re seeing increases in the number of women and children who can’t get into a shelter just because we don’t have enough room. Those women have children and we’ve seen more children than ever that can’t get into a shelter with their moms,” said Reimer.

Reimer says that the severity of violence faced by clients is at a high. ACWS has also noticed an intergenerational cycle of abuse coming through the shelters.

“We’re seeing it where ‘my mom came to shelter, now I’m in shelter’ because that abuse has that intergenerational impact. We’re certainly seeing that with Indigenous women and girls, the intergenerational trauma that’s experienced,” Reimer said.

Click to play video: '19th annual Global Edmonton Give Me Shelter donation drive'
19th annual Global Edmonton Give Me Shelter donation drive

Meilleur says after receiving that support all those years ago, she encourages others to seek help, too.

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“If you feel like you don’t need help because there’s no bruises, that’s not true. There are so many ways, they can abuse you and they know what buttons to press to get you back. But be strong, especially if you have children, be strong for your kids, they don’t need to see this,” she said.

Her life has improved since but knows many more need that same support and they can help through this campaign.

“Just be strong because there are people that support you all the way through. Every year that I can help with the shelter I will. If you can help, help,” Meilleur said.

In the past, the Give Me Shelter campaign collected physical gifts in addition to money, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced a change. Now, Global News exclusively collects gift cards and online monetary donations.

We’re collecting gifts until Dec. 14.

To donate gift cards, we have set up a donation box at the front entrance of Global Edmonton (5325 Allard Way NW.)

Online donations can be made by visiting our website: Globalnews.ca/givemeshelter. All donations will be divided evenly among six participating Edmonton and area shelters:

Jessie’s House
Win House
WINGS
A Safe Place
LaSalle Residence
Lurana Shelter

We will also be holding a donation drive-thru day on Wednesday, Dec. 13 outside Global Edmonton from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Global News TV and radio personalities will be standing curbside to collect donations that day.

Not in Edmonton? There are many women’s shelters throughout Alberta that need your support this holiday season. Consider a donation to the shelters in your area. Go to ACWS.ca to find a shelter in your community.

– With files from Global’s Karen Bartko

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