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Leeside Transition House in Port Hawkesbury adjusts practices to allow for social distancing

Leeside Transition House.
Leeside Transition House. - Contributed
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. —

Leeside Transition House has taken steps to ensure those seeking shelter there can safely distance themselves from staff and other residents, including reducing capacity due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Marina Martens, executive director of Leeside Transition House, said while the Strait area's emergency shelter for women and families facing domestic violence normally has nine beds, it has reduced its capacity and is currently able to accommodate two small families and two individual women or three women and one slightly larger family. Rooms are limited to one woman or family.

She stressed they remain open.

They’ve also rearranged furniture in common areas and instituted a rule that only three people may be in a room at a time, and they must remain six feet apart. While women had been able to cook their own meals, that is not currently the case, with staff doing the cooking. Someone who can provide catering is on standby, should that become necessary is staff members are unable to work.

“We have signs posted everywhere, reminding people to wash their hands, keep their distance, all of that,” Martens said.

It’s been an adjustment, particularly for women who have previously stayed at Transition House and know how things run under normal circumstances.

The house is also strictly enforcing that once women come to the shelter, they must stay, whereas normally they would be able to come and go.

“Now we’re saying, ‘Once you’re in the shelter, you have to stay in the shelter, unless you have an essential appointment you have to go to,’ and there aren’t very many of those because the offices are closed,” Martens said.

Cleaning has also been greatly stepped up, with bathrooms cleaned before and after every use.

The province has announced some additional support for various shelters in the province as they attempt to deal with the pandemic and the need for individuals to socially distance themselves.

As new restrictions are put in place at the shelter, other forms of assistance that the women and children may normally be able to access have seen reductions.

Due to the reduced capacity, when women call the crisis line, staff have had to do more triage to ensure those who are in physical danger receive the services they need.

While people generally have indicated they understand the measures, Martens noted it is still early days for the pandemic in Nova Scotia. For people who are already in times of personal stress could have some difficulty coping.

“As the stress builds, some people deal with stress in different ways and sometimes in not appropriate ways,” she said.

They are continuing to follow directives issued by Public Health.

Martens, who is retiring at the end of June, said she never expected to be dealing with a second pandemic, having previously gone through H1N1, adding that the fear is much greater with coronavirus.

Anyone wanting to call Leeside’s 24-hour crisis line, including those who may be struggling to cope emotionally, can phone 902-625-2444.

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