This past year began in a flurry of activity, with the months that lay ahead filled with families that would be needing the support of Candace House. At the end of February, we had just wrapped up another successful fundraising gala as the word COVID-19 was starting to swirl. Two weeks later, the WHO had officially declared a global pandemic. Sitting next to a mother in court, I was heartbroken by thoughts of what might lay ahead. With so many unknowns there would be some difficult decisions to make.
Like others, we decided to close our office and cease providing in-person services in March. Over the next couple of months, staff worked from home and used the time to take on several projects that have been of tremendous value both internally and for the victims, survivors and families we connect with. We also continued providing support to those impacted by violence however we could. Reaching out by phone, email and social media.
We were humbled by the strength and resilience we saw in the face of growing challenges, though we heard again and again that coping with grief and trauma was exacerbated by the pandemic. There was increased difficulty in accessing resources and professional support. Victims and survivors now faced additional financial burdens on top of those already being carried due to the crime. Funeral and memorial service options were limited. Restrictions prohibiting loved loves from gathering together limiting the much-needed hugs of warmth and love and increasing feelings of isolation.
With the announcements in May of Manitoba beginning to ease restrictions, we prepared to re-open our doors. We launched an appeal asking for support to make the necessary updates to our space and to purchase the many items that would be needed. The generosity and words of care that were received in response was overwhelming.
Over the summer, court proceedings and justice-related appointments slowly picked up, though things now looked a bit different. Physical distancing measures were implemented and masks became mandatory. Where families had previously been able to attend court with as many friends and supporters as the room could hold, only two individuals at a time from a victims’ family were now allowed.
At Candace House, we have introduced similar measures. Reducing our capacity to ensure distancing while still working to maintain flexibility, making masks available for use and dramatically increasing our cleaning routines. We also continue to provide nourishing snacks and meals but have adapted how we do this.
While these changes have posed some challenges, we take seriously the responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of all those accessing Candace House to the greatest extent we can. We know that the violent loss of a loved one has a profound impact on all aspects of life, including physical health. Sometimes ravaging the body and its ability to fight back. Each new measure is carefully thought through to reduce the risk of spreading COVID, and to do so in a way that continues to promote emotional, relational and spiritual wellbeing as well.
Now in fall, court schedules have returned to near normal with September having been extraordinarily busy as multiple homicide matters were proceeding concurrently. Although Candace House was not able to accommodate all families in our space, we made every effort to connect and address needs how we could.
Looking ahead to the coming months and year, the schedule of upcoming proceedings and families needing refuge and care is full. As limits remain on the number of people allowed in court, we anticipate family members spending even more time at Candace House. Taking turns attending proceedings and waiting for their loved ones to return from court to talk through and debrief together what happened.
While the future is unknown with tighter restrictions always possible, and as we navigate the challenge of dramatically reduced donations, we plan to continue providing compassion and care however we can. We know that now more than ever comfort and safety is needed and we ask for your support in making this possible. Your gift, no matter what size, makes such a difference.
As we look around our community, we are encouraged and inspired by how people, businesses and organizations are coming together, and by the support and words of kindness that Candace House has received. On behalf of the many victims, survivors and families who have found refuge and care because of your generosity, we want to sincerely thank you for all you have done and continue to do.
With warmest regards,