Shelter Movers continues rural expansion to meet demand

Ray Eskritt is a third-generation social worker who says her work with Shelter Movers is a mix of emotional highs and lows.

"I'm fighting the same fights my mother fought, and the same fights my grandmother fought, and it's frustrating," Eskritt told Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday.

"Every day you get up and go 'Somebody needs me. Somebody's in trouble.' And it's very lonely sometimes. And then you realize you have 190 volunteers in Ottawa who care too and it gives you the strength to keep going."

Shelter Movers is a national charity that helps people fleeing gender-based violence move out of that situation, including urgently, for free. It came to Ottawa in 2017.

The local expansion began in 2022 in Lanark County. This year it's headed further south to Leeds and Grenville counties, which include communities from Kemptville to Westport and Gananoque to Cardinal.

Shelter Movers Ottawa volunteers, with Ray Eskritt at the top left.
Shelter Movers Ottawa volunteers, with Ray Eskritt at the top left. (Ray Eskritt)

For Eskritt, who serves as the chapter director for Shelter Movers, the expanded footprint has a simple explanation.

"We knew people needed help and help wasn't there."

Shelter Movers Ottawa does 22 moves in an average month and at least two of those moves are in rural eastern Onrario, according to the agency's website.

The need for volunteers to serve the rural routes include drivers, movers, co-ordinators and suppliers of trucks, fuel and moving supplies. They have to be over 18 years old and will get training on dealing with trauma.

"Sometimes it's the most beautiful experience when you see a little kid going and running through the house saying, 'I'm going to paint my room, and we can have a Christmas tree and mom says I can have a dog now.'  … It keeps you coming back," said Eskritt.

She said Wednesday it needed about 20 volunteers to get fully established in Leeds and Grenville.

For anyone affected by family or intimate partner violence, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.