Shelter Movers Waterloo Region is hosting a virtual paint night this month to raise money for families transitioning to a life free of violence.
The Waterloo chapter of the national, volunteer-run charity launched in December 2020 and provides free moving and storage services to women and children fleeing abuse.
On average, it costs $200 to provide free moving and storage services to a family, according to Courtney Waterfall, director of the Waterloo Region chapter. That means that for every three people who register for the fundraiser, they are able to move one family to safety
“One of the leading barriers to someone leaving an abusive situation is having to start over and financially not being able to afford everything,” Waterfall said. “And there's evidence that when a woman returns to an abusive situation, that's when the level of violence escalates, and the levels of femicide increase greatly. So we want to be able to be there to provide safety for our clients.”
Though they’ve only been operational for a few months, the chapter already has 80 volunteers, and has so far completed close to 50 moves. Waterfall says there has been an emphasis on recruiting volunteers because of the rise of intimate partner violence during the pandemic, and other chapters have been doing 30 per cent more moves than before.
Cases of domestic violence have increased during the pandemic “because of people's stress, financial stress, isolation. When in a normal world, pre-pandemic, people would notice things, your neighbours would notice things, teachers would notice things. So it really limits the number of people that are seeing things and trying to help,” she said.
While there has been a rise of intimate partner violence across the country, even before the pandemic, a 2019 study ranked Waterloo Region as the least safe major city for women to live in across Canada.
According to the study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the region has one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault and intimate partner violence in the country.
“Kitchener-Waterloo are some of the most unsafe areas for women across the country. So we know that our service is needed and we want to be able to help our clients,” Waterfall said.
The Waterloo chapter is averaging at about six moves a month right now, though she says the “need to be doing way more.”
“And then to look at some of these bigger cities like the GTA, that are doing around 30 moves a month, but they are so much bigger than us. So comparatively, our numbers are probably even a little bit higher, just percentage wise. So that's a really scary, scary thing,” she said.
Painting With Purpose is the chapter’s first fundraiser, and will be held on Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. Participants will receive packages with wine or sparkling juice, chocolate and a paint kit.
Registration for the event ends on Aug. 8 at 11:59 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.