The local women’s shelter has been full since the summer, but the reason why is still a mystery.
Arden Smith, the department manager of the Mizpah Transition House, said that she is still not sure why the house has remained full and overcapacity at times since last August.
“Its an ebb and a flow (of women seeking shelter),” she said. “What makes it feel like a difference is that it’s more sustained.”
Smith and the South Peace Community Resources Society (SPCRS) run the shelter, which provides a temporary place to stay for women who are fleeing abusive situations.
Currently, the shelter has seven rooms for women to stay in. However, since August, those rooms have been full, and Smith said she is unsure why this is.
She suggested it may be that more men are becoming violent against relationships, and that the women within these relationships have an increased awareness that Mizpah has services available to them.
Despite this, Smith said that the centre has not been forced to put anybody in an unsafe situation, and that Mizpah does not have a waiting list for people to get on.
“(Staff) work in shifts and they just do their level best to accommodate everybody,” Smith added.
However, at points since August, Mizpah has been overcapacity, as some women fleeing violent situations have brought along their children to stay with them at the shelter.
This can mean that sometimes cribs or bunkbeds will have to be brought in for the children to sleep, which can put Mizpah over its intended capacity.
However, Smith said that so far her organization does not intend to expand or change to accommodate this sustained occupancy.
“We have no plans at this time to expand,” she said. “We’re still managing to keep people out of unsafe situations.”
When asked what she thought would improve the situation for women fleeing abusive relationships in Dawson Creek, Smith said that second-stage housing could help.
This second stage housing would provide women with a place to stay longer than the 30 days that the Mizpah centre currently allows. This second-stage would allow them a longer time to find a place to stay and learn other skills to avoid abuse.
Another barrier for women leaving abusive relationships is the cost of housing within Dawson Creek.
Oil and gas activities have brought in more workers. This influx of workers has caused the cost of rent within Dawson Creek to rise dramatically over the past decade.
Some women who are in abusive relationships choose to stay in them because they cannot afford to find a place on their own, said Smith.
“That’s one of the big barriers for women to leave… (they think) the evil they know is better.”