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Quebec women's shelters are asking the government to fast-track construction of more spaces

Shelters in Quebec are desperate for most spaces as women fleeing violence are calling for services in rising numbers. (Pexels) Shelters in Quebec are desperate for most spaces as women fleeing violence are calling for services in rising numbers. (Pexels)
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The Shield of Athena expansion project in Montreal is an answer to the high number of calls across the province from women in need.

"There's been a lot of demand for emergency shelters. We've had to expand," said Shield of Athena (SOAFS) executive director Melpa Kamateros.

For years, women's shelters like the Shield of Athena have been under immense pressure, but it's been particularly difficult recently.

"In the last 12 months, we've received over 53,000 calls," said SOS Violence Conjugale social worker Claudine Thibaudeau. "It's over double the number of calls that we used to get a few years ago."

The problem is that there isn't enough space at shelters, and that means some women have to call back as they try to flee a violent relationship.

"What's really troublesome for us is that when people ask for shelter, we've only been able to find shelter that has availability in about half of the situations," said Thibaudeau.

Opposition party Quebec solidaire is calling on the CAQ government to fast-track construction of women's shelters.

"There is existing projects of shelters that are ready to be constructed, but, unfortunately, it's blocked or it's not going very fast," said QS MNA Ruba Ghazal.

Ghazal said Quebec has the power to make it happen if a government decree is adopted.

"This has been done in the past, it can take 18 months," said Ghazal. "And even sometimes 13 to 14 months, so if the government have the want to construct them quickly. It's possible."

For years, Shield of Athena has been trying to get a second shelter built to help women fleeing violence transition to a better life.

"A project that should have taken a year has taken close to four years now, the actual construction part," said Kamateros.

Although the facility is almost complete, it can't come soon enough.

"We've been getting calls for the second step for the past two years continuously, and we keep on telling them it hasn't been built yet," Kamateros added.

In a statement, Quebec said it's had several meetings with shelters to find solutions, and the government has agreed to add one or more housing units to the project with certain organizations.

"Quebec will ensure that all projects are built as quickly as possible," the statement read.

"There also has to be a factor of flexibility and of quickness," said Kamateros. "It has to be quick. It has to respond to immediate needs." 

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