Shelter for women in Labrador West a ‘temporary’ solution, says Careen
A lack of affordable housing is forcing some women in Labrador West to continue living in violent households.
© Ty Dunham
Kim Martin and Shannon of the Labrador West Status of Women Council are assisted by a little helper as they serve cake to patrons at the Labrador Mall, and provided information on violence awareness as part of February's Violence Awareness Month.
Affordable housing has been a longstanding issue in Labrador West, and the effects are rippling down to families in crisis and hindering some women from escaping abuse.
Noreen Careen, executive director for the Labrador West Status of Women, said although the Hope Haven’s Women Shelter is an option for women and children, it’s only temporary and other solutions are urgently needed.
“People find it hard to make the connection of the importance of affordable housing. If you were to leave your home with your children, you need a place to live.”
Resources are still available for victims, such as emergency protection orders that can be put in place through the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
“But a lot of people in crisis, they don’t know any differently at the time,” Careen said. “They’re not aware of what’s available to them.”
That’s why it’s important for the community to take responsibility, she said.
“We all have a part to play. We lead by example. We need to be aware of our own biases and actions and what we say.”
A real problem
February was declared Violence Prevention Month across the province and a variety of events will take place in Labrador West to bring attention to the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse in the community, which Careen described as a very real problem.
“Anybody who has listened as of late is aware that violence is alive and well, and violence against women is absolutely alive and well.”
Careen said it’s important for friends and family to understand that victims often do not recognize the situation they’re in because that’s what is normal to them.
“If somebody came to you to express that they feel they are suffering from violence, the first thing is to acknowledge it and listen. You may be the only person that they have shared this with.”
Careen said it’s important to remember that not all victims of violence and abuse are middle-aged women.
“I will have a mom come to my centre and worry about the situation her teenage daughter is in, seeing it from the outside that it's not a healthy relationship.”
Abuse for young women can often be a partner being possessive and not allowing them to socialize with who they’d like, isolation, controlling who they text or call, and where they go. The women’s centre can work with them and walk them through a safety plan, putting things in place if they need and refer them to resources.
Violence against older women is also a widespread problem and the centre is heavily involved with the 50-and-up age group. Careen said older victims are coming to the centre more and more.
“When an older person is dependent on a family member these things can come into play. A lot of times it's financial and from a very close family member.”
Careen said she hopes the month of awareness will lead the community to not be afraid of coming forward and talking about violence.
“By keeping silent and not addressing it we're just as much a part of the problem as we are the solution. I don't know if there's any single one of us that hasn't been touched by violence, whether it's an aunt or an uncle or sister or brother or friend. None of us are immune.”