Transcript: Domestic Violence During a Pandemic | Apr 06, 2020

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a black suit and a white shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Domestic violence during a pandemic. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says THESE ARE DIFFICULT, STRESSFUL TIMES FOR EVERYONE. THEY ARE EVEN HARDER FOR THOSE WHOSE HOMES WERE NOT ALWAYS SAFE BEFORE ALL THIS STARTED. WITH US NOW FOR MORE: IN THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO: KATIE BORTOLIN, PROGRAM MANAGER AT BEENDIGEN ANISHINAABE WOMEN'S CRISIS HOME AND FAMILY HEALING AGENCY...

Katie is in her thirties, with long wavy blond hair. She's wearing a black sweater.

Steve continues IN OSHAWA, ONTARIO: PAMELA CROSS, LEGAL DIRECTOR AT LUKE'S PLACE SUPPORT AND RESOURCE CENTRE IN DURHAM REGION...

Pamela is in her fifties, with gray hair in a bun. She's wearing a blue and white jacket over a black turtleneck.

Steve continues AND IN TORONTO: SILVIA SAMSA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WOMEN'S HABITAT, AN EMERGENCY SHELTER AND OUTREACH CENTRE...

Silvia is in her sixties, with short, feathery gray hair. She's wearing glasses, a gray blouse and pendant earrings.

Steve continues WE'RE GRATEFUL TO ALL OF YOU FOR SPARING SOME TIME FOR US ON TVO TONIGHT TO TALK ABOUT A PART OF THIS COVID-19 STORY AND SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES THAT MAYBE WE DON'T NECESSARILY HEAR ENOUGH ABOUT. SO I'M GLAD YOU'RE HERE TO HELP US OUT WITH THIS. KATIE, MAYBE I COULD GET YOU TO START HERE. WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE THAT THIS PANDEMIC MIGHT LEAD TO A SPIKE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

The caption changes to "Katie Bortolin. Beendigen Anishinabe Women's Crisis Home and Family Healing Agency."

Katie says WE STARTED SEEING AN INFLUX OF CALLS PROBABLY ABOUT A MONTH AGO, AND THE CONVERSATIONS THAT WE WERE HAVING ON THE PHONE SPOKE A LOT ABOUT THE FEAR AND THE PANIC THAT A LOT OF FAMILIES WERE HAVING. WE WERE HEARING A LOT OF STORIES ABOUT ISOLATION AND THE FURTHER POWER AND CONTROL TACTICS THAT ABUSERS WERE USING TO MAKE FAMILIES MORE AFRAID. WE WERE HEARING ABOUT ABUSERS WHO WERE WITHHOLDING HEALTH CARDS OR WITHHOLDING ACCESS TO THE RADIO AND TO THE NEWS, WITHHOLDING ACCESS TO THEIR CHILDREN, WITHHOLDING SOAPS AND SANITIZERS AND ALL OF THE THINGS THAT KEEP FAMILIES SAFE. SO WE'VE SEEN IT AND THE INFLUX HAS JUST CONTINUED.

Steve says PAMELA, I WONDER WHETHER, ONCE YOU HEARD THE ORDER FROM OUR POLITICAL LEADERS THAT THEY ESSENTIALLY WANTED US ALL TO SHELTER AT HOME, DID YOU ANTICIPATE THAT THERE WOULD BE A SPIKE IN PROBLEMS?

The caption changes to "Pamela Cross. Luke's Place Support and Resource Centre."

Pamela says CERTAINLY WE DID, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT WHILE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ISN'T CAUSED BY STRESS OR FINANCIAL HARDSHIP, CERTAINLY THOSE FACTORS CONTRIBUTE TO THE EXTENT, TO THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE ABUSE. WE ALSO KNEW THAT IF WOMEN WERE GOING TO BE, AS THEY HAVE BEEN, REQUIRED TO STAY AT HOME... INITIALLY THIS WAS BECAUSE CHILDREN WEREN'T GOING TO SCHOOL ANYMORE. AND THEN AS PUBLIC SPACES STARTED TO CLOSE DOWN, THAT THOSE WOMEN REALLY, EVEN IF THEY WEREN'T AT THE POINT OF BEING READY TO MOVE INTO A SHELTER, WERE GOING TO HAVE FEWER AND FEWER OPPORTUNITIES TO EVEN SPEND A COUPLE OF HOURS A DAY OUT OF THE COMPANY OF THEIR ABUSER, AND WE KNEW THAT TOO WOULD CONTRIBUTE TO A SPIKE.

Steve says SILVIA, HOW ABOUT YOU? HAVE YOU SEEN A SPIKE IN CALLS?

The caption changes to "Silvia Samsa. Women's Habitat."

Silvia says YES, WE HAVE. OUR SHELTER AT THIS POINT IS TOTALLY FULL. WE HAVE 10 WOMEN AND 18 CHILDREN WITH US. AND WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS THERE'S BEEN A SPIKE ESSENTIALLY BY 25 PERCENT AND UNFORTUNATELY THERE'S NO PLACE TO GO. SO I THINK WE'VE DEFINITELY SEEN THE FACT THAT... ALSO WOMEN CAN'T PHONE ANYMORE IN THEIR HOMES. THEY'RE AT HOME WITH THE ABUSIVE PARTNER AND CHILDREN AND DON'T HAVE A SAFE PLACE TO BE ABLE TO CALL TO SEEK HELP.

Steve says IN WHICH CASE, WHAT DO THEY DO?

Silvia says SO WHAT A LOT OF OUR... OUR CRISIS CENTRE IS OPEN 24-7. WE HAVE AN OUTREACH PROGRAM ALSO WHERE STAFF ARE DOING A LOT OF SAFETY PLANNING OVER THE PHONE, TELLING WOMEN IF THINGS GET... YOU KNOW, IF YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER, YOU NEED TO CALL 911. BUT TRYING REALLY HARD TO GET THEM TO SAFETY-PLAN. WE'RE FINDING A LOT OF WOMEN ARE CALLING BECAUSE OF SORT OF MORE PROLONGED PHONE CALLS, JUST ABOUT HOW TO KEEP THIS GOING AND REALLY FEELING VERY... AS EVERYONE SAID ON THE CALL THAT THE HOME HAS NOT BEEN A SAFE PLACE FOR THEM. TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW THEY KEEP SAFE. IT'S A DEVASTATING SITUATION FOR OUR STAFF, FOR THE WOMEN WHO CALL IN TERMS OF TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO NEXT.

Steve says KATIE, WE OBVIOUSLY DON'T WANT TO INVADE ANYBODY'S PRIVACY HERE. BUT IF YOU COULD GIVE OUR VIEWERS AN IDEA OF THE NATURE OF THE CALLS YOU'RE GETTING. WHEN PEOPLE DO CALL, WHAT DO THEY SAY?

Katie says THEY WANT TO COME, THEY WANT A SAFE PLACE TO GO. WE HAVE A 24-BED SHELTER AND WE ARE UTILIZING A LOT OF MOTELS AND KITCHENETTES. WE'RE FURTHERING THE SAFETY PLANNING. WE'RE COMMITTED TO MAKING SURE THAT THE RISK ASSESSMENT TOOLS WE'RE USING ARE REALLY POWERFUL AND REALLY CAPTURING WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE HOME AT THE TIME AND TRYING TO REALLY ELABORATE THE DIFFERENT PRACTICES THAT THEY COULD UTILIZE TO KEEP THEMSELVES SAFE IN THE HOME, BECAUSE A LOT OF THAT IS LOOKING AT STAYING SAFE AND NOT GOING TO THE BATHROOM OR NOT GOING TO THE KITCHEN AND NOT GOING INTO PLACES WHERE THERE'S MORE WEAPONS WHEN AN ASSAULT COULD HAPPEN.

Steve says PAMELA, HOW ABOUT YOU? CAN YOU GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT YOU'RE HEARING ON THE PHONES?

Pamela says THE WORK THAT WE DO IS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT THAN THE WORK MY COLLEAGUES HAVE MENTIONED. WE'RE NOT A SHELTER. WE PROVIDE SUPPORT TO WOMEN WHO ARE MAKING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE FAMILY COURT PROCESS, OFTEN AFTER THEY'VE LEFT THE HOME. SO WHAT WE'VE SEEN IS A SPIKE IN CALLS FROM WOMEN WHO ARE HAVING VERY DIFFERENT LEGAL CHALLENGES THAN THEY HAVE HAD IN THE PAST. FOR INSTANCE, PART OF THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO TRYING TO ISOLATE THE VIRUS, TRYING TO SLOW DOWN ITS SPREAD... AND THESE ARE GOOD MOVES TO MAKE... ARE TO DO THINGS LIKE MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN CHARGED CRIMINALLY TO BE RELEASED ON BAIL AND TO RELEASE SOME PEOPLE EARLIER FROM A JAIL OR PRISON SENTENCE THAT THEY MAY HAVE BEEN SERVING. SO THIS HAS AN IMPACT ON THE WOMEN WE SERVE, WHEN THE PARTNER HAS BEEN ARRESTED AND CHARGED WITH AN INCIDENT RELATED TO ABUSE IN THE HOME. HE MAY BE GETTING OUT ON BAIL IN A SITUATION WHERE IN THE PAST HE WASN'T. HE'S NOW COMING BACK INTO THE FAMILY HOME BECAUSE NOBODY'S GOT ANYWHERE ELSE TO GO. WHAT WE'RE ALSO SEEING ARE THE WAYS... AND NONE OF THIS COMES AS A SURPRISE TO US, I'M SORRY TO SAY, BUT WE'RE SEEING AN INCREASE IN CALLS FROM WOMEN WHOSE PARTNERS ARE INTENTIONALLY USING THE CRISIS TO MANIPULATE ACCESS TO CHILDREN. FOR INSTANCE, WE HAD A CALL IN THE VERY FIRST WEEK FROM A WOMAN WHO REPORTED TO US THAT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS NOW SHE AND HER EX HAVE BEEN EXCHANGING THE CHILDREN AT THE LOCAL POLICE STATION BECAUSE THAT WAS THE WAY FOR HER TO FEEL SAFE TO DO THAT. AND HE JUST UNILATERALLY SAID, NOPE, NOT GOING TO DO THAT ANYMORE. IF YOU WANT THE KIDS... HE HAD THE CHILDREN... IF YOU WANT THE CHILDREN BACK, YOU HAVE TO COME TO MY APARTMENT TO GET THEM. SO THOSE NEW ISSUES, COUPLED WITH THE FACT THAT FAMILY COURTS HAVE NOW SUSPENDED REGULAR OPERATION AND ARE ONLY HEARING MATTERS ON AN URGENT BASIS, THAT THE LEGAL ADVICE THAT USED TO BE AVAILABLE THROUGH DUTY COUNSEL AT FAMILY COURT IS NOT AVAILABLE THERE AT THE PRESENT TIME, HAVE INCREASED NOT JUST IN THE NEEDS OF WOMEN AT THIS STAGE IN THEIR DEPARTURE FROM AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP BUT ALSO TO A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN WHAT THEIR NEEDS ARE.

Steve says CAN I JUST DO A QUICK FOLLOW-UP ON THAT? IN THE EXAMPLE YOU JUST GAVE, WHAT RECOURSE DOES THE WOMAN HAVE WHOSE EX-HUSBAND DOESN'T WANT TO MEET AT THE POLICE STATION ANYMORE BUT INSISTS THAT SHE COME TO HIS HOME TO PICK UP THE KIDS?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Pamela says IN THE MOMENT CERTAINLY WE WOULD BE DOING SAFETY PLANNING WITH HER TO ENCOURAGE HER NOT TO PUT HERSELF IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT, THAT WOULD BE UNSAFE, EVEN IF IT MEANS DELAYING THE RETURN OF THE CHILDREN BY SOME HOURS OR DAYS. HOWEVER, IN TERMS OF WHAT SHE CAN DO LEGALLY, WE HAVE BEEN VERY, VERY ENCOURAGED BY HOW RESPONSIVE THE JUDICIARY HAVE BEEN TO UNDERSTANDING THAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS, BY DEFINITION, AN URGENT SITUATION. AND SO WE WOULD BE SUPPORTING THAT WOMAN TO THEN BRING AN URGENT MOTION IN THE FAMILY COURT IN HER COMMUNITY SO THAT SHE CAN HAVE A JUDGE ISSUE AN ORDER, AND THEY'RE DOING THESE BY TELEPHONE SOMETIMES, BY ZOOM CONFERENCE SOMETIMES. YOU KNOW, THE COURTS ARE FINALLY GOING TO BE PUSHED INTO A MODERNIZATION THAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED LONG AGO. SO HOPEFULLY WITHIN A DAY, SHE WOULD HAVE AN ORDER THAT'S ENFORCEABLE IMMEDIATELY TO HAVE THE CHILDREN RETURNED TO HER. IT WOULD BE MY HOPE THAT IN THAT SITUATION THE JUDGE MIGHT ALSO SET FURTHER LIMITS ON FUTURE ACCESS BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE ABUSER BEHAVED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PROCESS.

Steve says OKAY. KATIE, LET ME GET... LET ME PURSUE THIS ANGLE WITH YOU. OUR OTHER TWO GUESTS ARE OBVIOUSLY IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO AND REPRESENT MORE DENSELY POPULATED PARTS OF THE PROVINCE. YOU'RE IN THUNDER BAY WHICH IS, YOU KNOW, FAIRLY SPARSELY POPULATED TO BEGIN WITH, BUT I PRESUME YOU ALSO SERVE SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES WHERE... I MEAN, THE ONLY WAY TO GET THERE IS TO FLY IN; IS THAT RIGHT? DO YOU SERVE THEM AS WELL?

Katie says WE HAVE A CATCHMENT AREA THAT INCLUDES A LOT OF NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO, AND THE STRUGGLE WE HAVE RIGHT NOW IS SAFETY PLANNING WITH FAMILIES WHO ARE IN REMOTE COMMUNITIES. IT'S ALWAYS BEEN A CHALLENGE TO WORK WITH FAMILIES WHO ARE IN SMALLER COMMUNITIES BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, YOUR SISTER COULD BE WORKING AT THE NURSING STATION OR SOMEBODY KNOWS SOMEBODY, SO OFTEN THERE'S PRIVACY ISSUES THAT PEOPLE HAVE WHEN THEY'RE DISCLOSING WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE HOME. SO A LOT OF IT IS CREATIVITY. A LOT OF IT IS HAVING THOSE CONNECTIONS WITH OTHER WORKERS AND OTHER AGENCIES AND MAKING SURE THAT WE ARE EXPRESSING THE BEST WE CAN TO MAKE SURE THAT THESE FAMILIES ARE SAFE. A LOT OF IT TOO IS EXPLORING THE MOTIVES OF THE ABUSERS. THERE ARE SOME MOTIVES WE LOOK AT THAT REALLY HELP US NAVIGATE THE SAFETY PLANS WE'RE GOING TO BE USING, WHETHER THEY'RE SAD... IT'S HOW WE RESPOND IN TERMS OF LOCATION WITH THE CALLER.

Steve says IF YOU HAD TO DO... LET'S SAY YOU HAVE TO RESPOND TO AN EMERGENCY IN A FLY-IN COMMUNITY, HAS THAT... HAS THE NATURE OF DOING THAT CHANGED AT ALL NOW THAT WE'RE INTO A NEW ERA OF COVID-19?

Katie says OH, ABSOLUTELY. BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT OF... THERE'S ALREADY CHALLENGES WHEN IT COMES WITH TRANSPORTATION AND BRINGING PEOPLE IN, SO THERE ARE SOME COMMUNITIES WHERE PEOPLE ARE LOCKED DOWN, WHERE THEY'RE NOT ABLE TO ACCESS THE SERVICES THAT THEY WOULD NORMALLY USE, SO LIKE I SAID, A LOT OF IT COMES TO BEING CREATIVE WITH THE COMMUNITY, HAVING A LOT OF WORKERS WHO ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE COMMUNITIES, AND MAKING SURE THAT THE FAMILIES REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT THE OPTIONS ARE FOR THEM SO THEY CAN MAKE INFORMED CHOICES WHEN THEY'RE DECIDING TO LEAVE.

Steve says SILVIA, WE DO REMEMBER... I GUESS IT WAS LAST WEEK THAT THE PREMIER OF ONTARIO RELEASED A LIST WITH SOME 70-PLUS ORGANIZATIONS, BUSINESSES, INSTITUTIONS IN THE PROVINCE THAT WERE CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL SERVICES. I PRESUME YOU'RE ON IT, BUT I DON'T KNOW FOR SURE. IS YOUR ORGANIZATION ON IT?

Silvia says YES. SO WE ARE ON THAT LIST. WE ARE CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL SERVICES. WE DO OFFER A 24-HOUR, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK CRISIS LINE AND OUR STAFF ARE IN 24 HOURS A DAY WORKING WITH THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN WHO ARE LIVING WITH US IN SHELTERS.

Steve says CAN YOU TELL US WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE ABLE, GIVEN THE COVID CRISIS WE'RE ALL EXPERIENCING NOW, ARE YOU STILL ABLE TO PROVIDE THE SAME AMOUNT OF SERVICES THAT YOU COULD BEFORE THIS ALL HAPPENED?

Silvia says NO, NOT AT ALL. WITH THE WHOLE ISSUE AROUND SOCIAL DISTANCING, LOTS OF TIMES WE HAVE GROUPS, WE HAVE PROGRAMMING WITH ALL THE WOMEN... OR WE HAVE CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING. THAT HAS TOTALLY BEEN ELIMINATED. ONE OF THE ISSUES WHEN WOMEN COME INTO THE SHELTER, THEY FEEL A GREAT DEAL OF CAMARADERIE WITH OTHERS. THAT CAN'T HAPPEN BECAUSE WE CAN NO LONGER HAVE ANY GROUPS WITH WOMEN. WE ARE DOING INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING. THAT STILL CONTINUES ON AND WE'RE VERY COMMITTED TO THAT. BUT THE GROUP SETTINGS OR THE GROUP MEALS TOGETHER, THE SHARING OF STORIES, THAT'S NO LONGER A POSSIBILITY BECAUSE OF THE SOCIAL DISTANCING.

Steve says KATIE, I THINK I RECALL ABOUT A WEEK AND A HALF AGO, THE PRIME MINISTER MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE WAS GOING TO FLOW SEVERAL MILLION DOLLARS TO THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT DO WHAT YOU DO IN ORDER TO HELP YOU DO WHAT YOU DO, WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE NUMBERS WERE LIKELY GOING TO SPIKE BECAUSE OF THE CURRENT COVID CRISIS. DO YOU KNOW WHETHER... HAVE YOU HEARD WHETHER YOU'VE SEEN ANY OF THAT MONEY COME THROUGH YET?

Katie says WE HAVEN'T SEEN THE MONEY. WE KNOW THAT THE MONEY IS COMING. SO IT'S 40 MILLION DOLLARS FOR WOMEN'S SHELTERS AND 10 MILLION DOLLARS FOR INDIGENOUS SHELTERS. WE'RE REALLY HAPPY TO HAVE THAT MONEY COME THROUGH TO BE ABLE TO PROVIDE THE EXTRA SUPPORTS THAT ARE NEEDED, BECAUSE AS WE KNOW, THE PANIC IS INCREASING. WE ARE GOING TO SEE MORE CASES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, MORE CASES OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN OUR COMMUNITY, AND A LOT OF THE WOMEN THAT WE'RE SERVICING DON'T HAVE HOMES THAT THEY COULD SELF-ISOLATE IN. A LOT OF THEM ARE, YOU KNOW, SHELTER-HOPPING OR LIVING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO FLEE THEIR ABUSERS, SO A LOT OF THE TIMES THAT MONEY IS GOING TO MAKING SURE THAT THEY HAVE A SAFE PLACE IN A MOTEL. SO THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WE ARE REALLY, REALLY LOOKING AT DOING TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR MOST VULNERABLE POPULATIONS ARE ABLE TO HAVE A SAFE PLACE TO GO.

Steve says PAMELA, HOW ABOUT YOU? HAVE YOU SEEN ANY OF THAT MONEY FLOW THROUGH YET?

Pamela says NONE OF THAT MONEY IS DESIGNATED FOR OUR ORGANIZATION BECAUSE WE'RE NOT PROVIDING SHELTER SERVICES. AND THAT'S UNFORTUNATE. BECAUSE WE ARE SEEING AN INCREASE IN DEMAND AND WE'VE ALSO EXPANDED OUR SERVICES TO RESPOND TO WHAT'S HAPPENING ACROSS THE PROVINCE. A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, WE ESTABLISHED WHAT WE CALL A VIRTUAL LEGAL CLINIC. AND AT THE TIME, THE TARGET OF THAT CLINIC WAS WOMEN IN REMOTE PARTS OF THE PROVINCE WHERE PERHAPS THERE WASN'T A LAWYER IN HER COMMUNITY, AND WE WERE ABLE, USING TECHNOLOGY, TO HOOK THEM UP WITH A LAWYER ELSEWHERE IN THE PROVINCE WHO PROVIDED SERVICES PRO BONO. AND WE'VE NOW OPENED THAT VIRTUAL LEGAL CLINIC TO WOMEN ANYWHERE IN ONTARIO BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT IT'S MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO ACCESS LEGAL ADVICE AND LEGAL SUPPORT RIGHT NOW. SO WE'RE MUCH BUSIER WITH THIS EXPANSION OF THIS PROGRAM, WHICH WE HAVE JUST DONE BECAUSE WE KNOW IT'S NEEDED. WE DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY TO HELP US KEEP IT GOING. BUT WE, FORTUNATELY, HAVE HAD A FANTASTIC RESPONSE FROM THE BAR IN ONTARIO, THE LAWYERS OF ONTARIO, WHO ARE LINING UP TO PROVIDE PRO BONO SERVICES, AND WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO OFFER THIS FOR AS LONG AS WE POSSIBLY CAN, AND WE REALLY DO WANT TO ENCOURAGE WOMEN ANYWHERE IN ONTARIO WHO ARE IN OR LEAVING AN ABUSIVE SITUATION WHO HAVE A FAMILY ISSUE TO CONNECT WITH US AND WE WILL DO OUR BEST TO CONNECT THEM WITH A LAWYER SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE PROVINCE WHO CAN GIVE THEM LEGAL ADVICE AT NO COST TO THEM.

Steve says BUT JUST TO BE CLEAR, WHILE THE ANNOUNCEMENT THE PRIME MINISTER MADE DID NOT INCLUDE YOU, ARE YOU HOLDING OUT HOPE THAT... WHO KNOWS?... MAYBE SOMEBODY WILL SEE THIS AND MAYBE THEY'LL RE-EVALUATE THAT.

Pamela says WE ALWAYS HOLD OUT HOPE OR WE WOULDN'T GO TO WORK, EVEN WHEN THERE ISN'T A CRISIS LIKE THE ONE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

Steve says UNDERSTOOD. OKAY. IS THAT... I GUESS I SHOULD ASK ONE LAST QUESTION ON THAT. THAT WAS THE PRIME MINISTER WHO MADE THAT ANNOUNCEMENT. DO YOU KNOW WHETHER THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT HAS ANY PLANS TO DO ANYTHING TO BEEF UP ITS RESOURCES TO YOU?

Pamela says IF YOU'RE ASKING ME THAT QUESTION SPECIFICALLY, WE HAVE HAD NO INDICATION OF THAT. I BELIEVE, AND PROBABLY SILVIA AND KATIE CAN ANSWER IT BETTER THAN I CAN, THAT THERE HAS BEEN AN INDICATION FROM THE PROVINCE OF SOME ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR SHELTERS.

Silvia says YES, WE... SORRY.

Steve says GO AHEAD. PICK UP ON THAT, PLEASE.

Silvia says YES. WE'VE BEEN TOLD THAT THERE WILL BE SOME FUNDS COMING THROUGH. SOME OF THE FUNDS WILL BE DIRECTED AT ALTERNATIVE HOUSING OPTIONS, YOU KNOW, HOTELS FOR THE WOMEN IN SHELTERS, FOR EXTRA STAFFING, FOR RELIEF, FOR SUPPLIES. SO WE'RE FEELING VERY OPTIMISTIC THAT THE NEEDS THAT WE HAVE THAT ARE BEING PRESENTED RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF DEALING WITH THIS CRISIS WILL BE COVERED BY BOTH THE PROVINCIAL AND FEDERAL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT.

Steve says CAN I JUST... I'M GOING TO ASK OUR DIRECTOR HERE, TONY BURKE, TO GIVE ME A THREE-SHOT. I WANT TO ASK ALL THREE OF YOU THIS QUESTION. THANK YOU, TONY. DO YOU KNOW WHETHER ANY OF YOUR CLIENTS HAVE CONTRACTED THE COVID-19 VIRUS?

Silvia says WE AT THIS POINT HAVE NOT... SORRY. GO, PAM.

Steve says SILVIA, YOU'RE A NO. PAMELA?

Silvia says WE'RE A NO.

Pamela says NOT THAT WE KNOW OF. BUT BECAUSE WE'RE NOT HOUSING WOMEN, WE COULD DEFINITELY BE SERVING WOMEN WHO HAVE CONTRACTED THE VIRUS.

Steve says I UNDERSTAND. KATIE, HOW ABOUT YOU?

Katie says NOT TO MY KNOWLEDGE. WE DO SCREENING ASSESSMENTS WITH PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE ACCESSING SERVICES AND WE ARE UTILIZING THE HOSPITAL IF PEOPLE HAVE THE SYMPTOMS, BUT WE HAVEN'T HAD ANY CASES COME BACK TO US.

Steve says I'M WONDERING, AND, KATIE, I'LL FOLLOW UP WITH YOU ON THIS. I'M WONDERING WHETHER YOU'VE HAD THE CONVERSATION WITH YOUR STAFF AS TO, YOU KNOW, WHAT YOU DO, IF AND WHEN SOMEBODY COMES IN AND IT PROBABLY IS INEVITABLE THAT SOMEBODY IS GOING TO COME IN WITH THE SYMPTOMS AT THIS POINT, YOU KNOW, IF THIS THING IS GOING TO GO ON FOR A FEW MORE MONTHS, WHICH IT PROBABLY WILL, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THAT HAPPENS?

Katie says WELL, WE HAVE PUT OUT SOME PRETTY STRICT PROTOCOLS IN REGARDS TO KEEPING OUR EMPLOYEES AND THE RESIDENTS SAFE. OUR CRISIS HOME RIGHT NOW IS UNDER STRICT ISOLATION, SO THE RESIDENTS WHO ARE STAYING THERE HAVE AGREED TO STAY ON PROPERTY FOR 14 DAYS AND IT WILL BE RE-EVALUATED AS THE 14 DAYS ARE OVER. AND IF SOMEONE IS COMING IN AND THEY ARE DEEMED HIGH RISK THROUGH OUR RISK ASSESSMENT TOOLS, OUR FIRST OPTION IS TO OFFER THEM SERVICES REMOTELY THROUGH A MOTEL AND SET THEM UP WITH OUR OUTREACH TEAM. AND THEN AFTER THAT, IF SOMEONE DOES WANT TO COME IN AND THE MOTEL IS NOT AN OPTION FOR THEIR SAFETY, WE HAVE A WING OF OUR SHELTER THAT IS OUR KIND OF QUARANTINED SPACE. SO IF SOMEONE DOES COME IN, WE HAVE STAFF WHO ARE PREPARED TO HELP THESE WOMEN DURING THAT 14-DAY QUARANTINE IN THE SHELTER.

Steve says AND DO THOSE STAFF HAVE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT OR GLOVES OR THAT KIND OF THING YET?

Katie says WE DO HAVE THEM. THERE ARE MORE COMING IN. CURRENTLY OUR STAFF ARE WEARING MASKS AND GLOVES AND FACE SHIELDS AND WE ARE PROMOTING SOCIAL DISTANCING BY HAVING ONE STAFF IN THE OFFICE AT A TIME. OUR CRISIS HOME IS TAPED UP. OUR DINING ROOM IS SET UP SO THEY'RE 6 FEET AWAY FROM EACH TABLE. WE HAVE TWO DIFFERENT TIMES FOR MEALS, SO PEOPLE ARE EATING SEPARATELY, WHICH IS REALLY UNFORTUNATE BECAUSE, AS SILVIA EARLIER MENTIONED, THESE CONVERSATIONS THAT ARE HAPPENING IN THE DINING ROOM AND IN THE LIVING ROOM WITH THESE FAMILIES JUST LIVING TOGETHER IS REALLY A HEALING THING FOR THEM. SO WE'RE DOING OUR BEST TO MAKE SURE THAT STAFF ARE AVAILABLE FOR THOSE INFORMAL COUNSELLING MOMENTS, BUT WE'RE RECOGNIZING THAT IT IS A CHALLENGE TO MAKE SURE THAT THAT SPACE IS BETWEEN ALL THE RESIDENTS AND THE WORKERS.

Steve says SILVIA, I CAN IMAGINE THIS IS A SITUATION WHERE YOUR PEOPLE WANT TO OBVIOUSLY BE HELPFUL TO THE CLIENTS WHO COME THROUGH THE DOOR, BUT THEY ALSO WANT TO BE SAFE AND PROTECTED. HAVE YOU HAD THAT CONVERSATION WITH YOUR STAFF?

Silvia says ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY. AGAIN, IT'S 6 FEET, WHICH IS VERY ODD FOR THE TYPE OF WORK THAT WE'RE DOING WHICH IS MUCH MORE, YOU KNOW, WHERE WE'RE SITTING DOWN WITH PEOPLE, WE'RE VERY CLOSE WITH THEM, SO WE CAN'T DO THAT ANYMORE. AND THAT'S BEEN I THINK VERY DIFFICULT FOR THE STAFF AND VERY DIFFICULT FOR THE WOMEN AND VERY DIFFICULT FOR THE CHILDREN WHO ARE USED TO HAVING PROGRAM EVERY DAY THAT'S BEEN DELIVERED BY OUR CHILDREN'S COUNSELLORS. SO THIS IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT WAY OF WORKING. IT'S NOT CONDUCIVE TO THE WAY WE USUALLY RUN OUR BUSINESS.

Steve says I CAN IMAGINE. I MEAN, I CAN IMAGINE THAT PART OF THE JOB OF THE STAFF OF YOURS, SILVIA, IS AT SOME POINT JUST TO GIVE THE WOMAN A HUG OR GIVE THE KIDS A HUG OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. I GUESS ALL THAT IS OFF THE TABLE NOW, IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE SAYING?

Silvia says IT'S TOTALLY OFF THE TABLE. THAT'S TOTALLY OFF THE TABLE. YOU'RE RIGHT. MOST OF OUR CHILDREN ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 9, AND NOT TO GIVE THEM A HUG OR TO GIVE THEM A LITTLE PAT, WE CAN'T DO THAT ANYMORE. IT'S A VERY... AS I SAID, IT'S A VERY WEIRD WAY OR A VERY... NOT THE WAY THAT WE WORK IN OUR SECTOR. WE'RE A VERY GIVING, CARING SECTOR, AND WE STILL ARE DOING THAT, BUT WE CAN'T BE PHYSICALLY CLOSE TO ANYBODY.

Steve says IN WHICH CASE, PAMELA, LET ME GET YOU ON THIS. HOW HAS LOU'S PLACE ADAPTED NOW TO THE NEW REALITY OF THE ROAD?

Pamela says ALL OF OUR SERVICES ARE BEING DELIVERED VIRTUALLY. IF WOMEN ARE STILL LIVING WITH THE ABUSER, OF COURSE WE HAVE TO DETERMINE BEFORE THE APPOINTMENT BEGINS WHETHER THE ABUSER IS PRESENT, WHETHER IT'S A SAFE TIME TO HAVE THAT CONVERSATION. AND OUR TEAM, AND I THINK THIS IS, I'M SURE, TRUE IN THE SHELTERS AS WELL, I JUST WANT TO MAKE A POINT ABOUT WHAT THIS IS LIKE FOR OUR STAFF. OUR STAFF WOULD NORMALLY POP INTO ONE ANOTHER'S OFFICES AFTER HAVING A DIFFICULT APPOINTMENT WITH A CLIENT, ARE NOW DOING THAT ALSO ELECTRONICALLY. BUT, YOU KNOW, THE PHYSICAL CONTACT MATTERS, AND THE ABSENCE OF IT MATTERS. I DON'T DO FRONT LINE WORK. I'M THE LEGAL DIRECTOR. SO I'M SORT OF A STEP REMOVED FROM THE WOMEN THEMSELVES. BUT I'M USED TO BEING ABLE TO HUG A COLLEAGUE WHERE EITHER SHE OR I HAVE JUST DEALT WITH A DIFFICULT SITUATION. AND I THINK ALL OF THE FRONT LINE FOLKS ARE REALLY FEELING THIS BECAUSE, AS SILVIA HAS SAID, THE PEOPLE WHO DO THIS WORK, WE'RE DOING IT BECAUSE WE CARE. AND PART OF THAT CARING INVOLVES BEING ABLE TO BE PHYSICALLY CONNECTED TO ONE ANOTHER. SO WE'RE LEARNING. AND I THINK WHAT WE LEARN WILL BE USEFUL TO US IN THE FUTURE. BUT I WANT TO STRESS THAT THIS ISN'T JUST HARD ON THE CLIENTS, IT'S REALLY DIFFICULT ON THE STAFF WHO ARE FEELING VERY ISOLATED AS WELL.

Steve says YEAH, KATIE, MAYBE FOLLOW UP ON THAT, IF YOU WOULD? I CAN THINK OF A LOT OF PROFESSIONS AROUND THE PROVINCE WHERE, YOU KNOW, PROXIMITY AND TACTILITY ARE IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE JOB. NONE MORE THAN YOURS. HOW DO YOUR PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO DO IT THE WAY THEY'VE ALWAYS DONE IT.

Katie says THAT'S THE CHALLENGE. THAT'S WHERE WE'RE SCRAMBLING TO MAKE SURE THAT... OUR CLIENTS ARE TRANSIENT. PEOPLE, THEY KNOW WE HAVE SPACES WHERE THEY COULD DROP IN. WE HAVE CULTURAL GROUPS THAT THEY'RE WELCOME TO ATTEND EVERY WEEK AND OTHER SERVICES THAT ARE JUST AVAILABLE TO THEM SO THAT IF THEY'RE ON THE STREET AND THEY'RE HUNGRY, THEY HAVE A PLACE TO GO. AND RIGHT NOW THAT'S NOT AN OPTION. SO A LOT OF THE STRUGGLES THAT WE'RE DEALING WITH RIGHT NOW ARE REACHING TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY OPPRESSED RIGHT NOW DURING THIS AND PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY, REALLY VULNERABLE WHEN THEY DON'T HAVE THOSE SAFE SPACES TO GO ANYMORE.

Pamela says CAN I JUST ADD ONE COMMENT TO THAT? WE SUPPORT FAMILY COURT WORKERS ACROSS THE PROVINCE AND WHO OF COURSE ARE VERY ISOLATED NOW AS WELL. SO ON WEDNESDAY WE'RE HOSTING A ONE-HOUR ON ZOOM SESSION, JUST COME TO THE MEETING VIRTUALLY, BRING YOUR LUNCH, WHATEVER, AND LET'S JUST TALK. LET'S TALK. WE WANT TO HEAR HOW YOU'RE DOING. WE WANT TO OFFER SUPPORT. WE WANT TO HEAR ANY TIPS THAT YOU'VE GOT FOR HOW YOU'RE MANAGING THE WORK. AND WE'RE HOPING THAT... SURE, IT'S NOT THE SAME AS BEING ABLE TO SIT AROUND AND GIVE SOMEBODY A HUG, BUT WE'RE HOPING BY DOING THIS, AND PERHAPS DOING IT AGAIN DEPENDING HOW LONG WE'RE FUNCTIONING LIKE THIS, IT HAD HELP PEOPLE FEEL LESS ISOLATED AND DISCONNECTED.

Steve says GIVE US THE 411 ON THAT, PAMELA.

Pamela says THEY WILL GET THAT INFORMATION FROM US. THAT'S JUST FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE PART OF THIS FAMILY COURT SUPPORT WORKER PROGRAM. OBVIOUSLY WE CAN'T HAVE EVERYBODY IN THE PROVINCE WHO IS FEELING ISOLATED. I AM HAPPY TO GIVE YOU THE 411, THOUGH, FOR OUR VIRTUAL LEGAL CLINIC. THE DIAL-IN NUMBER IS AREA CODE 905-728-0978, EXTENSION 221.

The caption changes to "Luke's Place Virtual Legal Clinic. 905-728-0978, Ext. 221."

Steve says GOOD. SILVIA, I HAVE ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT. LET ME GIVE IT TO YOU. A LOT OF US ARE LOOKING FOR A SILVER LINING IN ALL OF THIS, YOU KNOW, AND THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF GOOD NEWS STORIES THAT HAVE COME FROM THIS AND THE WAY PEOPLE ARE CHIPPING IN AND HELPING EACH OTHER. HAVE YOU SEEN A SILVER LINING IN YOUR LIFE YET AS IT RELATES TO THE WORK THAT YOU'RE DOING NOW?

Silvia says I THINK THERE'S BEEN A COUPLE OF SILVER LININGS. ONE IS THE SUPPORT FROM OUR DONORS AND OUR SUPPORTERS HAS BEEN AMAZING, WHEN WE PUT A CALL OUT TO ESPECIALLY CONNECT AND SUPPORT THE WOMEN IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE REALLY FEELING QUITE ISOLATED AND QUITE VULNERABLE IN OUR OUTREACH PROGRAM. THE OTHER SILVER LINING WHICH IS A BIT OF AN INTERESTING ONE IS THE FACT THAT WE'RE REALLY SEEING THE FACT THAT WE'VE NOT HAD AN EFFECTIVE HOUSING STRATEGY FOR VULNERABLE PEOPLE. AND HOPEFULLY THIS WILL COME OUT AS A FACT WE NEED TO HAVE SAFE HOUSING FOR EVERYONE WHO NEEDS IT. IF WE HAD A HOUSING STRATEGY NATIONALLY, PROVINCIALLY, MUNICIPALLY, I THINK A LOT OF WOMEN WOULD BE ABLE TO GO INTO THEIR HOMES AND THE FACT THAT WOMEN ARE WAITING FOR SHELTERS FOR A LONG TIME TO GET INTO THEIR HOMES HAS REALLY BEEN HIGHLIGHTED BY THIS CRISIS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Colin Ellis, @ColinEllis81."

Steve says SILVIA SAMSA, PAMELA CROSS, KATE BORTOLIN, IT'S REALLY GOOD FOR ALL OF YOU TO JOIN US ON TVO TONIGHT. GOOD LUCK GOING FORWARD WITH ALL OF YOUR EFFORTS. THANKS SO MUCH.

Katie says THANK YOU VERY MUCH, STEVE.

Silvia says THANK YOU, EVERYBODY. THANK YOU.

Watch: Domestic Violence During a Pandemic