Moncton crisis shelter forced to turn away a third of people seeking help

Crossroads for Women shelters women and their children living with family violence. Alexandra Abdelwahab/Global News

MONCTON, N.B. – The only crisis shelter for women and children in Moncton says they’re so full, they’re having to turn away families trying to get help.

Crossroads for Women, the largest shelter for victims of family violence in the province, has 17 licensed beds. They’re often at capacity.

One woman who used Crossroads to escape her abusive partner with her children in December 2010 said if she hadn’t been able to access the shelter when she needed it, she likely would have been killed by her partner.

“Crossroads helped me through the process of rebuilding my life, considering I went there in a very hopeless, helpless state of mind,” she said. “I had been with my ex for about four and a half years.”

Police brought the woman to Crossroads in the middle of the night and her partner was eventually sentenced to four years in prison for the abuse.

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Global News agreed to protect her identity.

“What they do provide is a safe environment. My children thought it was a hotel,” she said/

She said she wants to tell others that they can do it too.

“You have to leave and you should leave now,” she said. “Crossroads will give you the help that you need and you won’t be on your own. You can start over.”

Crossroads for Women has been using an old convent as their sanctuary for the last 33 years and its 17 beds are in just seven bedrooms, which means families sometimes have to share the space. They have one kitchen and no private counselling rooms.

“If little Paul is four-years-old and he’s watching television, we’re going to ask him to leave because we have a new admission coming in and the living room is the only common room we can counsel in,” said Tina Thibodeau, executive director at Crossroads.

She said the problem has been going on for years, as Moncton’s population has grown faster than the shelter has been able to expand.

But Thibodeau says it has been particularly acute in the last two years.

Last year, they had to turn away 38 per cent of the women looking for help. This year, they’ve had to turn away 34 per cent.

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She says it’s excruciating to have to say no because they know how hard it is to leave.

“Uprooting your whole life, leaving your home, leaving your friends, leaving your job if you have one, leaving everything you’ve ever owned behind, leaving your city, it’s not easy,” she said.

Leaving is also the time when a woman is most at risk of domestic violence from their partner.

“Ninety per cent of women that have been killed, it’s after they’ve left their partner. So imagine that fear: so you finally come over only to be told that we have no room for them.”

When the women cannot get into the shelter, they are never left out on the street. The RCMP works closely with Crossroads to find an alternative.

“We will make sure that if going home is not an option and sometimes it’s not an option, we’ll look at family and friends,” said Ginette Petitpas Taylor, coordinator of the RCMP’s Victim Services Unit, adding that they may also send them to another shelter in the outlying areas. “And we will transport them to those areas if need be.”

But often someone doesn’t want to or is not able to leave the city, so in those cases they will try to put the person up in a hotel for a few days until they can access Crossroads.

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“When we’re dealing with victims of domestic violence, the last thing that they need to see is for us scrambling in order to get them into a safe place,” Petitpas Taylor said.

Crossroads has bought a new building for $1.3-million in September that will allow them to have 29 beds. It took them nearly 10 years to save for the facility.

Next month they will launch a campaign to raise $900,000 to renovate it. The goal is to be in the new facility by December 2015.

If you are in a situation of domestic violence and need to get help in Moncton, you can call Crossroads 24-hour crisis line at 506-853-0811.

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