The Hamilton Spectator

No break for Interval House at holiday time

- NATALIE PADDON 905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSp­ec

The holidays aren’t a merry time for everyone, and they can be especially hard for women facing violent and abusive situations.

“When you are living pay-to-pay or you’re living in poverty or you’re living in a marginaliz­ed space, it’s a really difficult time,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of Interval House.

“It’s a difficult time for women when they’re living with a partner who is abusive and she has to make excuses why he’s not coming to family functions or why she’s very quiet or how come the kids are behaving in a way that they’re not used to.”

That’s why Interval House tries to ensure women and children don’t go without during the holiday season, which means providing gifts to open and food to cook, Smith said.

The local organizati­on that provides housing and support for women facing abuse and violence hands out grocery store gift cards to women so they can shop for their families.

It also provides drugstore gift cards to pick up medical and first aid supplies.

But it’s not only during the holidays that the need is great.

Interval House’s 22-bed emergency shelter on Sanatorium Road has been overcapaci­ty every month in 2017, with November reaching an all-time high of 130 per cent, said Smith.

“I’ve been with Interval House for just over 20 years. I have never seen a capacity at 130 per cent, ever.”

Smith said she can’t put her finger on why last month was exceptiona­lly busy but pointed to increased media coverage as one possibilit­y.

The average for 2016 was 113 per cent overcapaci­ty, with two months reaching 117 per cent, Smith added.

“Our phone doesn’t seem to stop ringing here.”

Smith said she doesn’t see the demand changing any time soon.

“We get multiple calls every day for women requesting safe shelter for her and her kids,” she said. “We must be available and responsive to women when they choose they need to reach out for support. ”

Interval House relies on help from the community.

Each year it fundraises, including having to raise $540,000 this year to offset operating costs.

There are additional costs shouldered by Interval House as well, like transporta­tion to help women and families get to a safe place.

Because of demand, Interval House has also had to change the referral process for counsellin­g in its community program because there was starting to be a wait list.

Smith said the community can help through donations, which can include cash or gift cards.

Interval House also runs a Room with the View campaign, where individual­s or businesses can sponsor a room at the shelter for $3,000 a year or $250 a month.

For more informatio­n on how to help, call Interval House at 905-3879959 ext. 235 to speak with Smith or visit intervalho­usehamilto­

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