Resource center for women seeking municipal funding to support additional counselor

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A record waiting list for its services has forced the Brandon Women’s Resource Center to seek funding from the city to help cover costs related to the increase in the organization’s programs and resources.

The delegation to Monday’s city council meeting was boosted by the association’s waiting list of more than 50 clients.

“Now we have this amazing waiting list, which I think COVID brought to us, so we wanted to talk to our city and our community, and also talk about how domestic violence [and] sexual assault is not a private matter. It’s a community issue, ”said Kim Iwasiuk, director of counseling and advocacy. “We really wanted to educate people who train [in] the community.”

The hope at the center is that the city will be able to provide funds to support the hiring of another long-term counselor, thus helping to build the capacity of services offered in the community.

The Women’s Resource Center currently has a waiting list of over 50 women and children. Iwasiuk thinks this really reveals the need for more services, as the organization has not seen this level of demand in its 32 years of service to the community.

Iwasiuk said that in his 16 years at the resource center, this was the first time that a waitlist of this magnitude has come up.

These numbers are incredibly concerning, said Iwasiuk, because when community members contact the Women’s Resource Center, they are in crisis.

The organization is primarily funded by the Provincial Family Violence Prevention Program, which supports family violence work at the center. Work on sexual assault is supported by provincial and federal grants. In April, the nonprofit received three years of funding for services in Brandon and surrounding areas.

“This is provincial funding that we really struggle with because [we] we no longer have funding in our prevention program to be able to hire another counselor to be able to work on that waiting list, ”said Iwasiuk.

Hiring an additional advisor would cost approximately $ 45,000 for one year of service. The staff member would be responsible for the waiting list, but would also help provide expert advice on domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

To help manage the safety of those seeking help now, when someone calls or seeks a welcome at the center, a safety plan is created and discussions about potential protection orders and accommodation services. are discussed before a formal admission to the center occurs.

“We keep in touch with everyone, but it has been incredibly difficult to do given the understaffing.

“There are so many layers to what the pandemic has done to people, and we know from previous research that any type of crisis, like in a pandemic, for example, is a catalyst for gender-based violence,” Iwasiuk said. . “There are so many factors: social and physical isolation, there are job disruptions… financial pressures that lead to increased conflict in the homes; there are so many risk factors, especially if the domestic violence has already happened in the home. ”

Staff at the resource center believe there is an urgent need to move forward and educate the community about domestic and sexual violence, Iwasiuk said, as it affects many demographics.

Acts of domestic or sexual violence are private incidents that usually occur behind closed doors, often leading to an incident that is never discussed.

For this reason, it can be difficult for the general public to know and understand what is going on in the community.

Manitoba has one of the highest rates of family violence and sexual assault in the country.

More than one in three women is subjected to physical and / or sexual violence in her lifetime, and cases of emotional, financial and other abuse are also common. Family violence has seen an increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not isolated. It’s a community issue, ”Iwasiuk said. “You look at emergency rooms, we look at the billions of dollars it costs our health care system, lost wages, employers not having full staff because people can’t go to work. It is a huge situation. ”

The center struggles to offer adequate support.

The association received funding over the summer, allowing it to employ two part-time workers, but funding ended in early September.

Both staff members were able to work amid the wave of domestic violence that was occurring in the community.

There remains a critical need to continue to expand services at the Women’s Resource Center, said Iwasiuk. The organization should continue to build capacity and not hire staff for a few months until funding runs out.

“It’s not ideal for people who experience any type of domestic violence, intimate partner violence or sexual assault,” Iwasiuk said. “Long-term support services are needed. ”

She hopes to someday seek a space where they will be able to preposition sustainable funding for social services, so if that happens again, they will be better able to meet the increased demand for services, advice and security.

It’s important that the Women’s Resource Center continues to research and talk about the statistics that emerged during the pandemic so they can start planning differently.

“We really have to be a lot more careful about how we do our jobs,” said Iwasiuk. “We will manage this waiting list. We will visit you. We will continue to connect with people and we really hope we can get funding so that a long term advisor can stay with us. ”

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