London Abused Women’s Centre still offering services online, by phone amid COVID-19 pandemic

The London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) has announced operational changes amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The LAWC is offering its services over the phone and hopes to have online services available in the coming days.

“We called together a staff meeting on Sunday night and asked them to join us very early in the morning on Monday, and a decision was made to limit individuals from coming into the office but we would be providing Skype and phone counselling,” said Megan Walker, executive director of the LAWC.

Walker says the LAWC currently has three staff members working completely at home and limited staff to cover shifts at the facility, where victims of abuse continue to show up.

“We have had, of course, people that have come to the door, and what we’re doing is inviting them into the very front area. We’re making sure they have some food, some drinks and then we’re sending them home with a taxi voucher so they don’t have to pay for that or use public transit, and they’ll also leave with a phone counselling session appointment.”

The move to continue offering services with the LAWC comes at a time where vulnerable women are in self-isolation 24 hours a day.

“So many people have been self-isolating in their homes and have been sent home by their workplaces. We’re in a situation where women who are being abused are really at home now 24-7 with their abuser,” Walker said.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government would provide $50 million to support women and children fleeing violence. The money would be distributed to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. Walker says the problem during this pandemic extends beyond just tossing money at shelters like hers.

“To me, the funding is great if we allow women to go to hotels or things of that nature, but this is a much bigger issue than just throwing money at a problem,” she said.

“We are under siege, and when women are forced to stay at home with an abuser, their fear is not coronavirus, their fear is their partner.”

That is why ideas are now being deliberated to figure out a way to keep services running at the LAWC.

“Right now, we’re investigating whether we can put a barrier of plexiglass or glass, or whatever it might be, inside the offices so that we can open it up to the outside and allow women with appointments to come in. That is not going to be happening over the next week or two weeks,” Walker said.

Walker says phone counselling services are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and Zoom group counselling online will start next week.

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