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Help Bethesda House: Sponsor a women’s shelter suite

Laura Burch

Durham’s women and children shelter, Bethesda House, has issued an urgent appeal to the public, business and institutional donors for help in keeping the critical shelter going and growing.

“We had to turn away some 800 women and children who met our mandate,” Laura Burch, Executive Director, told Durham Post.

“Last year we received more than 3,000 crisis calls. Each call takes over an hour. One person cannot run the shelter,” said Burch while explaining the shelter had two daytime staff, but as funding is limited the shelter now has one. “We had to lay off our cleaning support workers last year as we didn’t have funds. It is very important to sanitize and keep [the shelter] clean.”

Now the front line worjers are cleaning the shelter, in addition to their already heavy load of work, the executive director said.

“We cannot meet demand with this funding. Women are being murdered, slashed. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has become an epidemic. We’re seeing the effects of a number of recent murders,” said Burch (see below). “We’re catching victims at the wrong end – after the event. We need preventive programs. I hope Ontario declares IPV an epidemic. There s a lot of work the province can do.”

Clarington has declared Intimate Partner Violence an epidemic.

Bethesda House receives support from the Municipality of Clarington and funding from Region of Durham for 18 beds, a housing worker and a crisis counsellor. It also gets some funding for a child and youth worker. Prevention being the key, the shelter also has a youth outreach program for schools which is not funded. It is running on two shifts a day each single staffed. “We’re runing at full capacity all the time,” Burch said.

The shelter was renovated last year to add two single bedroom suites for women with children. Each costs about $133 a day or $48,000 a year to  run.

Bethesda House supporters and donors are helping out as best as they can. Money is also raised via community events such as dinners and auctions. For example, a yard sale is planned for Saturday June 15. The organizer, Danielle MacDuff, is looking for donations of items for the yard sale. A Facebook group specifically for Bethesda House – The Community In Support Of The Bethesda House – has been created.

However, these efforts are not enough.

“We have to raise $200,000 this year,” said Burch. She hoped that individual, corporate and institutional donors would step up and help with funding, especially by way of sponsoring either one or both the one-bedroom suites.

“We’re experts at what we do, but we need basis funding to do our work,” said Burch. “We have been underfunded the entirety of our existence.”

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