Interval House Hamilton women’s shelter fundraising with Shoppers ‘LOVE YOU’ Giving Shelter program

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Published September 26, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Interval House Hamilton women's shelter fundraising with Shoppers 'LOVE YOU' Giving Shelter program
From left to right: Jodi Hunt, director of finance and operations at Interval House Hamilton; executive director

Being above capacity is a reality for staff at Interval House Hamilton and the women and children escaping abuse, but it is beyond that these days.

The Hamilton women’s shelter, on some recent nights, has been 44 per cent overcapacity. For some women, staying in a six-week program to help them with independent housing and supports has stretched to as much as a year. But over the next three weeks, through to Oct. 14, Interval House is receiving support from the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart Giving Shelter program through in-store and online donations.

“Our shelter has a standard 22 beds — usually, being overcapacity for us would be in the range 26 to 28,” says Amy Comtois, the resource development coordinator at Interval House, located on Sanatorium Rd. on the West Mountain. “When we exceed that 26, we exceed our funding, and we are looking more for community support.

“Last week, we hit 31 women and children,” Comtois adds. “We’re having to resort to housing women in boardrooms and offices, on couches and cots, which is not a position that we want to put women in. So even though we are at or above capacity at any given time… in the past few months, our numbers have exceeded what even we would consider excessive.”

Donations can be made at the Shoppers self-checkout — that prompt asking if you would like to give $2 — or at the cashier. They can also be made at shoppersdrugmart.ca. Interval House Hamilton also takes donations directly, and they can be earmarked for specific programs.

“We are extremely blessed to be partnered with the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart Giving Shelter campaign,” Comtois says. “It is a great avenue where they can connect us with the community, and every dollar donated will go directly to women’s shelters across Canada. So we really encourage people to go out to a Shoppers, or visit shoppersdrugmart.ca, to make a financial donation that will go directly to shelters.

“We are looking to the community to cover our extra costs of supporting women.”

The Flamborough Chili Fest, which takes place this weekend (Oct. 1-2), is a fundraiser for the Flamborough Women’s Resource Centre. The centre is a satellite of Interval House Hamilton.

Forty-four per cent of women in Canada have reported experiencing some form of psychological, physical, or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated many challenges for women’s shelters and similar community agencies that perform social work. The same goes for cost-of-living challenges in Canada. Rising food prices contributed to inflation rates not seen since the early-1990s recession.

“Being overcapacity affects our food budget, our hygiene budget, our staffing hours,” Comtois says. “We’re being stretched so far just to keep up.”

Femicide up nearly 50 per cent during pandemic

The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability says that 173 women and girls were violently killed in 2021, the first complete calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is a 46.6-per-cent increase from 118 during 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

On any given night, about 600 women and children trying to leave an abusive partner are turned away by shelters across Canada. It takes about seven attempts for a woman to permanently leave an abusive partner.

The Sexual Assault Centre — Hamilton Area (SACHA), the city’s rape crisis centre, told a city-council committee last week that it anticipates a rush on its support services in the coming months. The belief there is that people who have been traumatized might feel ready to get potentially life-saving help after coming out of the bunker-down mindset that was prevalent in the heaviest parts of the ongoing pandemic.

Comtois said Interval House Hamilton is always braced for an uptick in needs for shelter and support.

“There are definitely women who have tried to get space and cannot, so they stay with their abusers, and it’s a really sad situation,” Comtois says. “So we need to find more space.”

(From left in cover photo: Jodi Hunt, director of finance and operations at Interval House Hamilton; executive director
Sue Taylor, director of programs Liza Ritchie and resource development coordinator Amy Comtois. Graphic via Shoppers Drug Mart.)

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