Nalita Gajadhar and Marrianne Burnham.
Nalita Gajadhar and Marrianne Burnham.

Barbados’ sole shelter for women who are victims of domestic abuse remains more than full to capacity.

Stating that the centre usually accommodates 25 families, President of BPW Barbados, Marrianne Burnham, said for a while now they have been housing more than that number and she believes it is because of increased awareness and collaboration from various agencies.

Speaking at the opening of the week-long partly European Union-funded training course for advocates on gender-based violence, Burnham said: “The shelter right now, ideally it holds 25 families — women and children. We probably have a bit more than that right now. We make it a point not to turn away anyone. We try to look for a safe space, whether it is at one location or the other.

“Of late it’s been quite full and that is because of increase collaborative efforts with the Royal Barbados Police Force, the family conflict unit that was created. The officers there have been working quite diligently with us. So while we’ve always worked with the police, it’s a bit more work that we are doing right now and that’s actually influenced our numbers, and because we’ve kept the visibility up because a number of things happen in Barbados recently to keep it in the forefront of people’s minds we find that more people have been calling.

“The NGOs have been reaching out, the churches have been reaching out, people are more aware that this service is there and they are trying to utilise it more. So we are operating on a relatively full basis as we usually operate,” she said, adding that the staff was there facilitating the transitions of families as they normally would.

The steady flow of women and children, she said, meant that they were strapped for resources, and while they had considered the need to expand the safe house, they could only do so with financing they did not have at the moment.

It had meant at some times when the house could take no more persons that they had to find alternative “safe housing” for those brought to their attention for assistance.

“I am very thankful for the network we have of supporters of informal agencies or the informal protocols we use, whether it is a nurse, doctor, police officer to support these clients. So we are functioning…

“We always look to expand. This country has around 300,000 people and our shelter essentially houses 25 persons and when we are very full we have to look for other locations, safe spaces to house people. So yes we do plan to expand.”

The president said the increasing utilisation of the safe house was another reason that they were still pushing to secure funding for transition housing, which would enable families and victims to get back on their feet and be able to move on successfully with jobs and new lives from the protective environment. (LB)

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