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As demand grows, Shelter Movers needs more volunteers to help women fleeing abuse

Shelter Movers Nova Scotia helps three to four women move their belongings each week and hopes to have 150 local volunteers by its one-year anniversary in July.
Shelter Movers Nova Scotia team members Sage Beatson (left) and Brooklyn Pinheiro say demand for the free moving service has grown in the six months since it began in the province. .
Shelter Movers Nova Scotia team members Sage Beatson (left) and Brooklyn Pinheiro say demand for the free moving service has grown in the six months since it began in the province. . Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

As weekly calls continue to rise, a free moving service that helps women fleeing domestic abuse is in need of more volunteers — and more funding.

Since the nationwide charity Shelter Movers set up a Nova Scotia chapter six months ago, it says demand for the service in the Halifax area has increased to between three and four moves per week.

“Nova Scotia in general has higher rates of domestic violence than a lot of places in the country and different than the other chapters that we already have existing,” explained local operations manager Brooklyn Pinheiro.

“The need in Nova Scotia has been pretty great, a little more than we were expecting for sure.”

READ MORE: Halifax’s Out of the Cold shelter to open in new location

Shelter Movers operates on referrals from community agencies or shelters and will co-ordinate with women and children fleeing domestic abuse to pick up and move their belongings. It can also make additional arrangements for translation, pet fostering and storage when needed.

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The organization was founded by Nova Scotian Marc Hull-Jacquin to fill a void in services for domestic abuse survivors as they navigate the difficult — and often dangerous — process of leaving their abuser. It has chapters in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Nova Scotia became the newest addition in July 2019. It currently has about 70 volunteers who have completed a total of 75 moves.

READ MORE: Shelters on the front lines help women flee violence — but they’re also in crisis

“We’re hoping for the end of our one-year goal to have about 150 (volunteers) and we’re hoping to complete that many moves as well,” Pinheiro told Global News.

“In order to continue and to be able to grow the way that we want to, we do require more volunteers and some more funding as well to make sure that everybody who needs our services in the city can be served.”

Shelter Movers
Shelter Movers

According to Statistics Canada, a third of Canadians report experiencing violence or maltreatment during childhood and women account for 83 per cent of spousal abuse victims.

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Halifax Shelter Movers volunteer Sage Beatson said providing support to survivors is rewarding work.

“It can be really moving. There’s something really special about reuniting someone with their personal treasures,” she said. “It is heavy stuff, but I’ve always felt safe on moves and supported by the organization.”

READ MORE: ‘We need to find a solution’: Bryony House workers call for immediate temporary shelter

“It bridges that really basic and tangible gap, so people are usually very happy to just be connected with their stuff again,” added Pinheiro.

“And each case is a little bit different, whether you’re moving someone into a shelter, moving their stuff into storage or moving them into their new spot. We assist on all of those stops along the road.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, click here to find resources