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How A Mother is Impacted

Parenting is no easy feat and yet everyday mothers and fathers around the world wake up to this multi-tasking adventure. A common question and one that is hard to answer — some days it can seem flawless and other times we are reminded how hard it is. In May, we honour our mothers and female caregivers in the long-standing tradition of Mother's Day, so let's talk about mothers.

https://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/9359840-high-demand-in-hamilton-for-shelters-for-women-fleeing-abuse/

High demand in Hamilton for shelters for women fleeing abuse
Last year, Hamilton’s Interval House emergency shelter operated at 111 per cent capacity, writes Nancy Smith.
OPINION May 17, 2019 by Nancy Smith Hamilton Spectator
Nancy Smith

Parenting is no easy feat and yet everyday mothers and fathers around the world wake up to this multi-tasking adventure. A common question and one that is hard to answer — some days it can seem flawless and other times we are reminded how hard it is. In May, we honour our mothers and female caregivers in the long-standing tradition of Mother's Day, so let's talk about mothers.

Being a mother is multidimensional and the task list is virtually endless. A mother is often described as a selfless, loving human who works hard to make sure their child is equipped with the skills that enable them to grow into a competent and responsible adult. Being a mother is perhaps the hardest, most rewarding job a woman will ever experience.

Like any role, a mother needs supporters. In the secular workplace we often have a built-in support system with co-workers and management. In a perfect world all parents would feel supported by their spouses, partners, friends and community. One situation that can drastically affect the support a mother feels is when she is in an abusive relationship. The trouble is that most of us won't see the humiliation, verbal insults, controlling behaviour and isolation that women may experience in an unhealthy relationship. It takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage for a woman to reach out for assistance when she is living in an abusive situation. She must think of her own personal safety and the safety of her children; she has to think of the logistics of leaving — she may not have transportation and she has to know of a safe place where she can stay. Shelters for women are chronically overcrowded. For a woman, with or without children, who is fleeing abuse or violence she will need a safe shelter to stay at; a shelter with the highest level of security because she may be at the highest level of lethality. It is well documented that women are at a higher risk of danger/harm including lethality when they are pregnant, or have just given birth, when they have decided to leave, and when they are accessing legal systems, specifically family, criminal, and immigration courts.


Last year, our emergency shelter operated at 111 per cent capacity; 91 women and 84 children stayed at the shelter; there were 633 women in our counselling programs, over 1,000 safety plans were created, and there were over 6,000 crisis/service calls in our rural outreach and shelter programs. We are the only emergency women's shelter on the Mountain in Hamilton and the only shelter to specifically work with women with or without children fleeing abuse or violence that are at high risk of being killed.

Overcrowding and increased need is not unique to women's shelters in Hamilton. More Than a Bed: A National Profile of VAW (violence against women) Shelters and Transition Houses was released on May 1, 2019. It outlines the situation of women's shelters across Canada; it is not good. VAW Shelters and Transition houses are providing expanding services to a diverse group of women and children without comparable funding increases. So far, they are finding creative solutions to keep women safe even when they have no more funded beds available. However, this cannot go on forever. Capacity challenges are compounded by the lack of safe, affordable, and appropriate housing for women and their children across the country. One need looks no further than our own city. It is now almost impossible for a woman to rent a clean and modest apartment for under $1,000 a month!

Crowded shelters, lack of affordable housing and overwhelming safety concerns and fears for herself and her children are not the only challenges a woman who has (or is) experiencing abuse or violence must face. Violence affects her mental health and that of her children; something we should think hard about especially during May as the week of May 6 was Mental Health Week, and the month of May is Sexual Assault Prevention month in Ontario. Gender-based violence is a significant public health issue. The link between violence and mental health concerns is higher for women; women with histories of physical violence have significantly higher incidences of major depression, 50 per cent of women who have experienced violence also have had a mental health diagnosis. The risk of developing depression, PTSD, substance use issues, or becoming suicidal is three to five times higher for women who had experienced violence. Over half of women in VAW shelters or transition houses may suffer from major depression and over 33 per cent suffer from PTSD. (https://www.canadianwomen.org/how-gender-based-violence-impacts-mental-health/)

This year, as we honour our mothers and female caregivers let us not forget the moms and caregivers who are staying at a VAW shelter or have used VAW services in the past. The VAW shelters and transition houses in our community desperately need our support. Please consider donating to one of them this month, during May, the month of moms, female caregivers, and elders.