Unfortunately, home is not a safe place for everyone. For some women and children, COVID-19 has meant that there is no respite from the threat of abuse. More time at home and the restriction of gatherings at traditional meeting places means there are fewer opportunities to connect with friends, family, or services that can provide support.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Dennise Taylor-Gilhen, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way East Ontario, highlighted the many challenges that vulnerable women may face through COVID-19: “Women who need help are finding it difficult to reach out, to leave those unsafe homes, and to find a sense of security for their families.”
As our communities gear up for the winter, the safety of those experiencing violence at home continues to be top of mind. Thanks to our partnership with Unsafe at Home Ottawa, more people experiencing violence at home can find comfort in knowing that there’s somewhere for them to turn.
Cut off from daily social interactions like school drop-offs and errands, many women don’t have anyone to alert about the danger they may be in. That’s where Unsafe at Home Ottawa comes in.
Unsafe at Home Ottawa is a secure and bilingual text and online chat support for women and members of LGBTQ2S+ communities in Ottawa and Lanark County, who may be living through increased violence and abuse at home during COVID-19.
Early on in the pandemic, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Crime Prevention Ottawa, Interval House of Ottawa, the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre, the Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre and Ottawa Victim Services rallied together to launch this service in response to an increased need for a safe way to reach out for help. Kind Space and Victim Services Lanark County later joined to better support LGBTQ2S+ clients and outreach from Lanark County.
With support from the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, United Way East Ontario quickly invested to grow the capabilities of Unsafe at Home Ottawa, and ensure it could maintain service well into 2021.
Carina Maggiore is Unsafe at Home Ottawa’s project coordinator and is often on the front-lines answering messages herself. She says staff provide emotional support, practical tools, and referrals using encrypted technology so conversations are kept confidential and secure.
Supporting the most vulnerable people
The social challenges people face on a regular basis have not gone away because of COVID-19. As days pass, we are increasingly worried about the most vulnerable people, whose day-to-day struggles become more and more difficult and who are steadily at greater risk throughout this crisis.
Thanks to partners like Unsafe at Home Ottawa and support from our donors, United Way East Ontario ensures women and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community who are not safe in their homes have the tools to reach out and get the help they need.
Our communities are better when we work together—help is just a text away.