Lack of affordable housing in N.S. keeps people fleeing violence in shelters longer

·2 min read
Two groups that help people leave domestic violence in Nova Scotia are calling for quicker action to address the lack of affordable housing in the province. (Shutterstock - image credit)
Two groups that help people leave domestic violence in Nova Scotia are calling for quicker action to address the lack of affordable housing in the province. (Shutterstock - image credit)

A charitable organization in Nova Scotia that helps people flee abusive homes says the housing crisis is keeping their clients in shelters for longer periods of time.

Shelter Movers helps people leave abusive homes by providing a free moving and storage service since most shelters have a two-bag policy on luggage. Before the housing crisis, Shelter Movers would usually only need to store belongings for about six months; now they have a client whose items have been in storage for 32 months.

"Affordable housing has been a challenge to find here in the province of Nova Scotia simply because our populations are expanding so quickly — but the infrastructure hasn't been doing so at the same rate," said Erica More, chapter director of Nova Scotia Shelter Movers.

"I think that coming to the decision of leaving an abuser is a challenging one enough in itself. So having to face that additional obstacle of, 'Will I find housing or will my family be unhoused?'  I think it's a concern that many people could face and could consider when deciding whether or not to leave," More said.

Alice House, a Halifax organization that helps women who have left abusive situations find a permanent, safe, affordable place to live, says the housing crisis in Nova Scotia is creating more risk for domestic violence.

More housing 'will be life saving'

"Potentially the only option is to go to a crisis shelter — which is wonderful that we have them — but those are also often at maximum capacity because of the housing crisis as well," said Alice House executive director Heather Byrne.

Creating more housing affordable housing for families, and for women in particular, could be life saving, she said.

Byrne said women are staying at shelters 50 per cent longer lately, and that's connected to the lack of affordable places to move.

Regardless of the housing crisis, Byrne said women who are thinking about leaving domestic violence should reach out to transitional houses or call 211 to get help.

The provincial government says it is taking action on the issue when it approved the fast-tracking of nine major residential construction projects in the Halifax area in March. That could create as many as 22,600 new residential units.

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