The South Okanagan Women In Need Society has helped save the lives of women who have been mentally, physically and sexually abused for 40 years
One in three women have experienced abuse in their lives and one woman a week in Canada is killed by their intimate partner.
“It’s astounding and it happens here in the South Okanagan, it happens everywhere so these are services that are dire,” said Liz Gomes, housing coordinator and interim manager of client services of S.O.W.I.N.S.
The team at S.O.W.I.N.S. is dedicated to changing that statistic, and their annual fundraiser, The Walk to End Abuse, helps fund that mission. This year’s event has been adjusted to provincial health orders.
Participants who register are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing.
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The not-for-profit has grown over four decades to offer everything from emergency transition housing, long-term housing, a community-based victims program that helps women navigate the justice system and a drop-in centre.
“The centre really filled a gap that we had here in the South Okanagan which is really to provide services for our most vulnerable women it’s a drop-in centre where women can come get the basic necessities of a meal, do laundry, have a hot shower there is a support staff that can connect with them,” said Gomes.
The pandemic has only amplified the need for their work S.O.W.I.N.S. saw a 20 per cent increase in referrals and had to turn away 1,027 women and children from their emergency shelter.
“There has been an increased need in our counselling program and our emergency hotline,” said Goulden.
“There has been an increase need in all the areas in our organization. A lot of women, children and families have been extremely vulnerable with stay-at-home orders. But now that things are opening up again we are expecting a definite increase and influx in the women and children in the community we serve.’
In the decades to come, Goulden says they will be focusing on increasing housing for their clients.
With the Walk to End Abuse on June 13 where they hope to raise $50,000 as a step in the right direction to help end the cycle of abuse.