Activity at a Manitoban women’s shelter has been muted during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers say, but note abuse hasn’t disappeared, only gone underground.

Ang Braun of Genesis House in Winkler, Man., says the impact of COVID-19 has included many changes in policy and procedures, loss of fundraising events, a decrease in residential clients but an increase in calls from concerned friends and family.

She says the emergency shelter provides a refuge for women and their children when they leave their homes, the most dangerous time for them.

She shared their story and struggles at the Winkler Chamber of Commerce Small Business Week event on Thursday. Looking around the room at the P.W Enns Centennial Concert Hall, Braun says they've felt the support of every business leader in the room.

"The community support, we would just not be able to function without it."

However, she says what they’re hearing from women is their husbands and boyfriends need help. In response, the shelter is working to create more programming and supports for men dealing with a range of issues.

"I love him, but I wish things could go back to the way things were in the beginning of the relationship," is a refrain they often hear from women in shelter, Braun explains.

And now that people have been learning to live with the virus, Braun says their beginning to see an uptick in residential clients.