The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children is preparing to launch a new wing equipped to house women with substance dependency issues who are seeking to escape abusive and violent relationships. As a result a donation drive has been launched in order to kit out the new wing with furniture, bedding and clothing. The community and private sector are invited to support the centre in raising these necessities.“Currently about 80% of the women who seek assistance from us test positive for drugs,” says Shaheema McLeod, director of the centre. “Our intake profile is changing, the women are very young, some barely 18-years-old, and substance abuse is a big issue. It’s almost expected.”The Saartjie Baartman Centre, which was established 17 years ago, has assisted more than 180 000 victims of crime and violence. Over and above offering safe shelter, the centre offers a number of services, including short and long-term accommodation, legal assistance, skills training, counseling for adults and children and a crèche for the children staying at the centre.“Based on our current intake profile, it’s become necessary for the centre to offer a drug in-patient programme to our clients. We are currently looking into securing long-term funding for a separate wing, where we will be able to provide a two-week orientation and detox programme to women before they transfer to a longer-term therapeutic stay,” says McLeod.Over the past few years, the organisation has seen a 65% increase in the number of women and children from the community seeking assistance. “Violence against women and children continues to increase, drug and alcohol abuse is merely fueling an already volatile situation. The in-patient programme will go a long way in assisting women survivors of violence in getting back on their feet and fending for themselves,” concludes McLeod.