Loss of STC keeping domestic violence victims from shelters, survey says

A new survey released by the Provincial Association of Transition Houses (PATHS) suggests the loss of Saskatchewan Transportation Company bus service has hurt victims of domestic violence.

Shelters say safe transportation is hard to come by for those in need

The Saskatchewan Transportation Company offered its last rides in May of 2017. Shelter workers say domestic violence victims have since resorted to hitchhiking and Kijiji ads for rides. (CBC)

A new survey released by the Provincial Association of Transition Houses (PATHS) suggests the loss of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company bus service has hurt victims of domestic violence.

The survey was conducted from July 16 to 30. In total, 56 staff members from domestic abuse shelters were surveyed.

The majority of staff members that were surveyed said women who are victims of abuse are struggling to get to shelters since STC was shut down about a year ago.

Jo-Anne Dusel, executive director of PATHS, said some of the women in need have family and friends to drive them, but many don't have that option.

"They tend to be the most marginalized individuals in our society," she said. "Most of them do not have a vehicle themselves."

Jo-Anne Dusel, executive director of PATHS, says many women don't have safe and affordable transportation options. (CBC News)

The majority of staff said women have been using unsustainable or dangerous alternatives to get to clinics. Many women resort to posting to Kijiji in order to get a ride.

Dusel said one woman who was staying in a shelter was hitchhiking to Manitoba to see her children when she was sexually assaulted by the driver and left in the ditch.

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In total, 70 per cent of workers who took the survey said their clients have hitchhiked to get to or from a shelter, often while pregnant or with young children in tow.

Dusel said it's unknown how many families can't make it to a shelter due to transportation issues.

"Women are phoning our shelter wanting to come in, saying they will be there in the morning if they can get a ride and just never showing up," said Dusel. "So the shelter staff don't actually know what's happened to those women.

"Did they just stay in their abusive situation or did they try to get here and somehow were stopped along the way?"

According to the survey, some women are using safer alternatives for transportation, including taking taxis or getting rides from the RCMP or shelter staff. But staff said those methods are not available on a regular basis, and cannot be relied upon in the future.There has been no extra funding provided to shelters to transport women.

Staff expect the situation to get worse, not better, with the departure of Greyhound bus service in the fall.

Care workers are calling on government funding for transportation in Saskatchewan that could be use by those in need of shelter or on their way to medical appointments. Dusel said smaller shuttle buses would do well to address the need in the province.

With files from Hailey Salvian