It’s been a consistent message during the pandemic: “Stay at home, and stay safe.” But what if home is not a safe place?
Statistics Canada reports that a woman in Canada is killed by someone she knew intimately about every six days. About a third of all police-reported violence happens between intimate partners. Thousands of more assaults are never reported.
These realities have not changed because of the pandemic.
The Sooke Transition House Society (STHS) has been a safe harbour for women for nearly 30 years. The society operates Annie’s Place, a 24-hour emergency crisis facility for women and their children who are leaving situations of intimate partner violence, community violence and domestic violence.
“I know that with COVID right now, a lot of people are dealing with struggles of being in an unhealthy relationship and not knowing what to do, and it’s become very dangerous for a lot of people,” said Charleyne Oulton, chair of the society, who was a transition house resident more than 14 years ago.
Tracy Schetterer, the STHS managerial director, and her seven support workers, resolve to make a difference in women and children’s lives.
“From the time they come into the house until the time they leave, we tell them this is your home,” Schetterer said. “We’re here to support them 24/7.”
A stay can be as short as one day and as long as a few weeks. In that time, an STHS outreach worker provides direct assistance to clients, including needs assessment, information and referrals, safety planning and transportation assistance. The worker also acts as a client advocate and accompaniment when appropriate for medical, legal or social service appointments.
The society offers counselling services for both women and children and co-funds a victim services program run in conjunction with the Sooke RCMP.
In 2020, the society housed 17 women and 12 children. So far, in 2021, two women and three children have sought protective shelter.
Many families at Annie’s Place are from out of town – some as far away as Alberta and Washington State. Often, Sooke women who seek help are referred to transition homes in other areas of the province or beyond, Schetterer said.
Oulton said Sooke is lucky to have a transition house when other smaller communities don’t have one. Still, other services are needed throughout the Island, including secondary housing and more counsellors.
“I think that we’re in Sooke, and part of the conversation is just pure magic,” she said.
The Sooke Transition House Society operates Annie’s Place with funding from B.C. Housing, while the B.C. Public Safety and Solicitor General Ministry fund counselling programs, victim services and outreach services. The society also hosts community fundraising events.
• Staff at Annie’s Place can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 250-642-2591. Anyone at immediate risk of harm should call 911.
Even though the past year has been anything but traditional, an annual fundraiser put on by the Sooke Transition House Society will return, but with a twist.
The society’s annual Beer and Burger Night was cancelled last March due to COVID-19 restrictions. The community donated more than 70 items for a silent auction.
Now that auction will be held via Facebook, beginning March 4 and running to March 11.
Among the items up for auction are artwork, locally produced crafts, gift certificates, salt lamp – even a hand-painted umbrella.
All those who bought a ticket to the actual event have also donated the money for their beer and burger back to the society, said STHS executive director Crystal Gelsinger.
Check out the auction on the Sooke Transition House Society Facebook page.