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Officials who run the local abuse shelter for women are calling on Government for assistance in securing one or two units in every new housing development to help their clients return to independence.

Coordinator of the Business and Professional Women’s Crisis Centre, Marlene Hewitt, told an audience last night as the group hosted a discussion on violence and domestic abuse, that the centre had not been empty since it opened in 1999.

She said since they catered to women, many of whom had children who also had to be secured, there was always a challenge finding locations for them when they moved on from the shelter.

President of BPW, Marrianne Burnham.

With the Christmas season here, President Marianne Burnham also noted that it ushered in a period of increased need and so Government’s help with alternative housing for such victims was essential.

“With our shelter, from the time we opened we have had women and children in that centre. We have never had a time since 1999 that our shelter has been empty.

“There have been times when it has been full to capacity and then we still squeezed in people. We never turn back women,” said Hewitt.

She said most of the “clients” came through their hotline service, while others were recommended or referred from places like the hospital and police.

The job of the shelter was to assist the women, and children, deal with the effects of their situation of abuse through counselling and other services, and then aid their return to independent living.

It was this move of the women from the shelter back to society, said Hewitt, that was creating the challenge, especially where the woman had several children who had to be relocated with her.

“One area we are looking towards … is that we are asking Government if they can give us some housing, just maybe one or two housing units in a development. Whenever they put up a new development, two houses would be ideal so that the women can move onto those houses when they are not working, get themselves together, find a job and then be able to move and set up their own homes,” she said.

Burnham added: “It is our goal to get transitional housing because welfare isn’t always friendly to a woman with three or four kids, and landlords aren’t always friendly to a woman with several kids. So if we get transitional housing, which is affordable housing, where she can manage on her own until she catches herself, those are the kinds of things we look forward to…

“Maybe because of the 16 Days of Activism that we do or for whatever reason, the shelter tends to get very full around the holiday time. People are financially stressed out as well and in addition we are on radio and such…, so more people call,” she said, adding that they also used this period to collect items for the women.

She appealed as well with the public to donate foodstuff and even clothing like business wear, that would help the women with job interviews on their way to becoming independent. (LB)

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