PEI

P.E.I. women's shelter cutting some services due to COVID-19

P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services is limiting some operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

'Money will not be our biggest problem through this'

CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin speaks to Danya O'Malley, executive director of P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services, about how coronavirus is affecting services. 6:31

P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services is limiting some operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the organization's outreach staff are working from home and are dealing with clients through email and phone.

Exceptions are made for situations such as accompanying a woman to make a statement to police.

"It's significantly impacting our ability to work," said Danya O'Malley, executive director of P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services.

"We work in an industry where you are working directly with people in a very close, supportive kind of environment so it really changes everything."

She said she knows there are some things that will have to be done face to face — but staff is limiting those interactions.

She said Anderson House is still accepting residents — and the shelter could see more cases as this time of social distancing continues.

"Anything that puts stress on a family can make it difficult if there is abuse in the home, and that is abuse either against the children or between the parents," O'Malley said.

"When stress runs high, fuses get short."

That could result in an increase in the number of women needing sanctuary in the house, she said — adding that fortunately they have not seen increased demand yet.

Everybody is healthy at Anderson House right now and practising social distancing, said O'Malley.

"It's very hard because you know we have one kitchen, basically one living room, it's very tough. We are very fortunate that everyone is healthy right now," she said.

Everyone is staying in the house, which is, O'Malley added, spotlessly clean as usual.

"We have a lot of people who clean as a way to manage stress, so this is working very well. The entire place smells faintly of bleach at all times," she said.

'Money will not be our biggest problem'

The federal government has announced additional funding for women's shelters, which O'Malley said is wonderful. But she is also aware in the coming weeks she could be facing problems that funding won't help.

"Money will not be our biggest problem through this," she said.

"If people start getting sick it might be staffing, and I can't just buy new staff with additional funds."

However, Anderson House has lost a valuable component to their operations.

"We did have a hotel that we make use of sometimes if we need like overflow space and that hotel has since let us know they are closing," O'Malley said.

"That was sort of my safety net, that is what I could rely on, you know, especially if we did have maybe somebody that was showing symptoms. We want to put them somewhere where they can be safe that isn't in the shelter."

The shelter is looking for other hotels that might be able to take overflow, O'Malley said.

As with all services, she said, the situation is changing rapidly, and P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services is continually reviewing how to respond to those changes.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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