Two bags. That’s all you can take before leaving your home forever, before leaving your abuser for good. But how do you fit everything you own, all your life’s possessions, into just two bags?
That’s what life is like for many women fleeing domestic violence for a shelter where the standard limit of belongings is only two bags. But having the courage to leave shouldn’t mean choosing between your family photo albums and your children’s toys.
This is where Shelter Movers fits in, often times where police, lawyers, shelters and hospitals can’t.
Shelter Movers is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization started in Toronto. What they offer is very simple and addresses a very specific need in the community: a free moving and storage service for women and children escaping abusive living situations.
The financial strain and safety barriers are at the forefront of a women’s decision to leave.
According to Shelter Movers Ottawa director Elizabeth Rock, “over and above the fear, the shame, and the guilt of leaving is the questions: ‘How do I do this? How do I get out of here? How do I bring my children’s things?’”
These are the questions Shelter Movers are made to answer.
There are 93,000 cases of abuse and violence reported in Canada within a single year and that’s just the reported incidents. “Violence against women is everyone’s problem and every community in Canada is facing this,” so founder and executive director Marc Hull-Jacquin set out to see how it could be solved.
In October 2017, Shelter Movers cautiously launched their second chapter here in Ottawa. Their only goal was to have enough boots on the ground to keep up with demand and always say “yes” to a move.
“Ottawa is the perfect example of a large city with amazing volunteers and vision. It’s a diverse group of people coming together to solve a very solvable problem.” Marc made sure he was hauling boxes for their first move in the city and countless moves afterwards.
Ottawa is the perfect example of a large city with amazing volunteers and vision.
A year in review, the organization has grown to over 125 volunteers (and counting) and has helped a resounding 95 women and children leave their abuser with dignity and relocate for a fresh start. The Ottawa chapter now executes about 2 moves a week, but the need for more is always there.
With no time to lose and more women to help, Shelter Movers has already partnered with all shelters in the city – even one out in Winchester.
It’s the privilege to be in the room with a survivor when she looks around and confirms she’s taking her life back.
And so, with Ottawa as a successful case study Shelter Movers has made yet another calculated move and have started offering their services to women and children in Vancouver as of this past September. If that wasn’t enough achievement for one year, the organization will be completing their 500th move by the end of the year.
“It’s the privilege to be in the room with a survivor when she looks around and confirms she’s taking her life back,” said Marc. “That’s why we do what we do.”
But just like the domestic violence isn’t going away, neither is the need for a service like this or the cost associated with it. They’ve done the math and it costs about $200 per move, a fraction of what it would cost the city. That covers everything from an unmarked moving truck, gas, insurance, boxes, packing supplies, and storage costs to more case-by-case requirements like hired security, an interpreter and pet fostering.
Backed by a growing team of volunteers always ready to get involved, the organization is still heavily reliant on donations and in-kind services.
Wondering how you can do your part? Shelter Movers is having a Music Quiz fundraiser on Friday, November 30th at Broadway Bar and Grill at Prince of Wales Dr. The price starts at $25 per person.