Business as usual at women's refuge

Invercargill Women's Refuge co-ordinator Cathy Robertson.
Invercargill Women's Refuge co-ordinator Cathy Robertson.

Cathy Robertson used to be able to "map out" the busy times for the Invercargill Women's Refuge on a calendar.

But every day this year the safe houses have provided refuge to at least one Invercargill family. "We haven't been empty anytime this year."

The Women's Refuge co-ordinator said domestic abuse was now so unpredictable that the organisation was sometimes left looking out of town to other refuges to transfer families during the busy periods.

Last week the refuge had to transfer families out of town to refuges in Gore and Dunedin as capacity swelled.

While it may be the silly season, for the women's refuge it was business as usual, she said. "It's not uncommon that we have to use other refuges."

This week the situation was not as bad as several families had left the safe houses to stay with family further afield, she said.

The refuge only had room for six families. Domestic abuse was unpredictable, but at this time of the year there was a lot of pressure on families and the organisation was trying to support the families already in the community as best they could, she said.

"Years ago I used to be able to do a wall planner of when we are busy and when we aren't."

It was a continuing problem the organisation faced in Southland; some days the houses were full to the brim, others they only had a family or two staying with them. Although the latter is becoming uncommon, she said.

"Some days we have talked about, ‘gosh, do we need another safe house?' "

Despite the houses being full for the past several weeks, they would never turn a woman or family away who needed their help.

She encouraged families not to put off seeking help during the festive season. The houses would be open right through Christmas and help would always be available.

If you would like to offer gifts or non-perishable food to the refuge, you can do so at The Southland Times' Esk St office until December 20.

The Southland Times