(Quebec) Shelters for women who are victims of domestic violence are short of places. In several regions, such as Montreal, they are regularly full, while the government conducts advertising campaigns to encourage Quebecers to intervene when they witness violent marital situations. With requests for aid exploding, the workers are calling for new investments from Quebec.

“In some regions of Quebec, shelters have exceeded their capacity. Many women and their children are refused accommodation. They will knock on doors and be refused access because the houses are full,” said Liberal MP Brigitte Garceau. Newly elected last October in the riding of Robert-Baldwin, in Montreal, Ms. Garceau knows the world of shelters well. A family law attorney for nearly 30 years, she most recently chaired the board of directors of the West Island Women’s Shelter.

Worried, Ms. Garceau recently multiplied access to information requests from many departments to obtain an accurate picture of the number of refusals sent each year by shelters, due to a lack of available places. “There is no one who can tell us or confirm numbers for us. We need accountability,” she concludes.

At the Regrouping of houses for women victims of domestic violence, it is said that the number of women refused for lack of places reached 3,793 in 2019-2020 before falling slightly to 3,736 in 2021-2022. A woman who cannot find a place to stay is not, however, left without support. She sometimes finds a place in another house that is not a member of the group or she is helped by workers who offer external services. This number of accompaniments also jumped during the same period, going from 14,660 to 19,034.

Until recently, Quebec even promoted the SOS violence conjugale telephone line. The Liberal Party of Quebec would like the Legault government to set itself the objective of having a “zero refusal” policy when a victim of domestic violence says she is ready to leave and is relocated to her own region.

“The campaign was a good start. But if [a woman] knocks on the door, she calls, and there’s no room, what happens? She returns home and there is going to be another incident. Maybe this time it will be worse. That’s the issue of the lack of places, ”laments MP Brigitte Garceau.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services, after successive increases to shelter budgets in recent years, “a new wave of data collection is planned for the fall of 2023 to assess the impact investments “.

Claudine Thibaudeau, head of clinical support and training at SOS violence conjugale, confirms that there is a lack of places in shelters for women victims of domestic violence in several regions of Quebec. When La Presse spoke to him last week, the houses in Montreal and Laval were all sold out.

“Right now it’s extremely difficult. SOS workers do everything in their power to find places. They must regularly offer victims to go elsewhere, further, to other regions. Sometimes at distances that are very large,” she explains.

“If I have a wife from Joliette and I suggest that she go to Quebec, that puts her in the short term, but all her dealings remain in Joliette. The people working with her are in Joliette. It is not because they are offered to go further that the victims are able to accept it,” adds Ms. Thibaudeau.

At SOS violence conjugale, over the past five years, the number of requests for assistance received has jumped 125%, from 25,899 requests in 2016-2017 to 58,303 requests in 2021-2022. In the next annual report, which has not yet been filed, the statistic will decrease slightly, to 51,521 requests. This drop is partly explained by the fact that the chat service was suspended due to lack of staff.

Accommodation requests have also increased, the organization adds. They went from 6,751 in 2020-2021 to 10,020 in 2021-2022.

“When someone calls and asks for accommodation, it’s never a whim. We should always be able to say yes,” says Claudine Thibaudeau.

“Shelters should be like the availability of firefighters. We never call the fire brigade to be told that they are busy and to call back tomorrow. You have to have a lot more firefighters than there is demand to always be able to say yes,” she adds.

The report Rebuilding Trust by the Committee of Experts on Support for Victims of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, resulting from a cross-partisan parliamentary initiative, establishes that there is a “lack of places in shelters and a lack of financial and human resources for external services”.

In the 2021-2022 Quebec budget, the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, provides $22.5 million over five years to enhance the services offered by shelters for women victims of domestic violence. He also notes that health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have “exacerbated the lack of places”.

As Quebec was rocked by a wave of feminicides, the Quebec government then launched the Priority Actions to Counter Domestic Violence and Femicide 2021-2026, which devoted $92 million over five years to improving the external services of shelters. accommodation and create new places.

Quebec unveils the Integrated Government Strategy to Counter Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence and Rebuilding Trust 2022-2027, which includes 58 actions and an investment of $462 million over five years. This is the government’s response to the Rebuilding Trust report.

Noting a “significant issue of lack of places in certain regions of Quebec” in terms of accommodation for women victims of domestic violence, it is proposed to open four emergency shelters and shelters in the regions of Montreal, Outaouais and Abitibi-Témiscamingue. These projects are in progress.

In its most recent budget, Quebec provides $10 million over five years to “improve the services” offered by shelters.