New data shows the number of people accessing the services of Odyssey House has increased by more than 200 per cent. That growth was in their Community Support program in particular. In 2016 138 people accessed the service, in 2017 that jumped to 320 people.
Executive Director Ebony Remple says a lot of these people don’t end up accessing their shelter facilities.
“They’re just looking for somebody to connect with. Perhaps at a Tim Horton’s or when they’re on their lunch break at work or even over the phone. [They want] to talk about various things around safety planning or what are some of the issues I might experience.”
She also credits some of that growth to an increased public awareness of their services.
The latest stats available show Alberta has the third highest rate of police-reported family violence, though there was a 4 per cent decrease.
The province is working to address the issue of family violence by launching the Alberta Supports abuse line. They say the line is meant to “be a single point of contact if Albertans are unsure of where to get help.”
The line can also be used by anyone who may be concerned about a friend or family member. Remple doesn’t think the line will help ease the burden on frontline workers but could supply important information.
“The helpline can definitely help support citizens with that information. So maybe they don’t know where to report or when to report. We’re hoping that that helpline will assist them in that.”
Remple did say she hoped the staff on the line will be able to recommend resources in communities around Alberta. The province says the staff will be able to help ensure a “coordinated provincial response” to callers.
Overall, Remple says the phone line is opening up the conversation which is a key part of addressing the problem.
“People that are experiencing the violence don’t report it. But also citizens don’t know where to report it. They’re always saying, ‘That’s not my business’ or ‘Let somebody else take care of it or ‘I don’t want to get involved.’ Hopefully, this line will be able to support those people in reporting those kinds of instances.”
Remple adds while intimate partner violence is the most common this line could also support victims of elder abuse, financial abuse as well as verbal and psychological abuse.
In the last year data provided by Odyssey House shows 438 women and 201 children were housed at their emergency shelter, trauma counsellors provided 477 hours of therapy to 120 individuals and the second stage shelter welcomed 35 women and 48 children.
The Alberta Supports phone line case be reached at 1-855-4HELPAB (4435722). Alberta Supports does also have an office in Grande Prairie where people can also access a variety of services.