Shelter Movers is a national volunteer-powered charity that provides free moving and storage services to survivors fleeing abuse. In collaboration with community agencies and local businesses, they support families transitioning to a life free of violence. 


According to the World Health Organization, 27% of women aged 15-49 who have been in a relationship have been subjected to violence by their intimate partner at least once in their lifetime. Even once a woman leaves an abusive home, they often return multiple times to retrieve belongings or due to financial hardship. Women aren’t the only group affected, with 63% of homeless individuals having experienced abuse at the hands of a family member.  Moving can be difficult under any circumstances, but leaving an abusive household is uniquely stressful, costly, and potentially dangerous. 

Technical details & Operations

Founded in 2016, Shelter Movers provides free moving and storage services for survivors of gender-based violence. Operating by referral, Shelter Movers works with local women’s shelters and community agencies to help anyone who is moving due to abuse or violence. Shelter Movers’ intake team is referred survivors by local agencies and will gather initial information about the client’s safety and logistical needs. A move plan is developed involving a volunteer team, security personnel, language interpreters or pet fostering services, and a detailed itinerary is created. On the day of the move, a Lead Mover serves as the survivors’ main point of contact. Other team members may also be present to ensure the process is as safe and efficient as possible. The team operates according to a clients’ needs and priorities, helping survivors leave abuse and retain their belongings with dignity.

Shelter Movers provides three types of moves: 

  1. Urgent Exit – Moving a client and their belongings from an abusive household to a shelter or other safe space.
  2. Escorted Move – Escorting a client back to their former home with security accompaniment to retrieve their belongings.
  3. Resettlement – Transporting a client, their children, pets and belongings from shelter to her new home.

Deployment & Impact

Since its inception in 2016, Shelter Movers has established local chapters in 9 major Canadian cities. To date Shelter Movers has moved nearly 6,500 families, averaging 1145 moves per month. 

A majority of survivors served by Shelter Movers are women-identifying mothers (18 – 45 years) who have at least one child under 8. Survivors from all walks of life use Shelter Movers services, a reflection of the pervasiveness of this social problem. 

A significant portion of Shelter Movers 1,300 volunteers are men. Shelter Movers presents men with an opportunity to show allyship by providing practical, impactful support to survivors in their community.