FARGO — Since the start of the pandemic, calls for domestic violence are up, but the number of women seeking help at emergency shelters are down.
The YWCA Cass-Clay is seeing fewer women and children showing up at its doors, looking to escape sexual and domestic violence, but from March through May, calls for help from domestic violence are up by nearly 20%, compared to last year.
YWCA Executive Director Erin Prochnow said for every 10 people that call for assistance, one will arrive. They have monitored Red River Dispatch call logs, indicating the problem of domestic violence is still a problem.
"I think it's really easy for people to say, 'Oh that doesn't affect me. That doesn't happen here', and we're here to say it does," Prochnow said.
She has spoken with several other shelters in the region that are experiencing a similar drop in women and children seeking shelter. Due to the pandemic, it has become even more challenging for victims to leave their abusers.
"What we're hearing, from those that do call, is that it's difficult to find a safety opportunity to leave," Prochnow said.
Prochnow said another reason people aren't seeking shelter has to do with social distancing.
"Say I'm a single woman and there's another single woman checking in," Prochnow said. "Usually speaking, we can be roommates, but in this time of COVID, we can't place people in the same room unless they're in the same family structure."
The YWCA has lowered its capacity because of the pandemic, but it hasn't turned anyone away. In late May, the YWCA evacuated the shelter after some residents tested positive for coronavirus. Then, the shelter was professionally sanitized and cleaned while the building was empty.
The YWCA has roughly 60 people staying in the emergency shelter and an additional 150 in their transitional and permanent housing support program.
Prochnow said everyone at the shelter gets tested once a week for coronavirus, and they're continuing to do what they can to help families in need like offering food support for those falling on hard times.
Despite the pandemic, the YWCA's message remains the same.
"We're here for you, we believe you, and if you need help, please call," Prochnow said.