Gateway Gazette

Data Count calls for an Investment in Seniors, Women & their Children Escaping Abuse

 

High River, AB – The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) is releasing the annual Shelter Data Count results, painting a picture of what one day is like in domestic violence shelters around the province.

In November 2014, 36 member sheltering organizations that serve seniors, women and their children fleeing abuse recorded the number of people they helped, welcomed into shelter and could not accommodate due to lack of capacity on one day:

  • Helped: Women (924) Children (811)
  • Admitted: Women (35) with their (24) Children
  • Turned-away*: Women (80) with their (98) Children

The Data Count results reinforce the mantra of Alberta shelters over the past few years: urging all levels of government to increase support to domestic violence shelters to keep pace with the dramatic increases in population and help mitigate the impact of our province’s boom and bust economy on Alberta families.

Investing in Alberta’s women means ensuring that any family trying to preserve their basic human rights by accessing essential shelter services can do so.

The provincial government announcement of Bill 3 included a funding commitment to second-stage women’s shelters.

Rowan House Emergency Shelter was one of the participants in the count. On November 6th, 2014, 49 women and children were served and three people were turned away. Executive Director, Sherrie Botten is extremely concerned by the number of turn-aways. “The majority of our turn-aways are due to lack of space at our current crisis facility,” she explains. “This is often because there simply is not enough safe and affordable housing in our area. Rowan House agrees with the importance of second stage housing and increased funding for it across the province. To help address this concern, Rowan House Society is completing a feasibility study to determine how best to proceed with transitional housing for women fleeing domestic violence in our area.”

“We are confident that the provincial government understands the impact of trauma experienced by abused women and children and will invest in second-stage. It is important to shelter staff that shelters and the work that they do are valued as they keep getting up every day to improve the health of vulnerable Albertans,” says Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS.

Women served by shelters on Data Count day said about shelters:

“My family and I are safe, healthy and cared for… thank-you.” Brooks

“I am getting the help I need.” Red Deer

“Being in the shelter makes me feel safe” St. Paul

“I like that it’s hard to get in here.” Calgary

“You all helped me save my life and I will be forever grateful.” Cold Lake

“This place has helped me know what it’s like to be home again.” Calgary

“Supports provide stress relief from worrying about where to live.” Medicine Hat

“You treated me better than I’ve been treated my whole life.” Grande Prairie

“Coming from an abusive relationship and never having time to myself because I was scared to leave my daughter, I am grateful for the childcare staff. She is finally trusting another adult.” High River

“If the staff hadn’t been so supportive and positive I would have returned to my abusive partner.” Taber

“I feel a connection to the staff and people here like family. It is allowing me the opportunity to make lasting life changes.” Strathmore

“I have decided to take my life back from my partner.” Calgary

Shelters have been filled to capacity in many corners of the province for a long time. ACWS welcomes the provincial commitment to address this issue, a shift from earlier thinking, which focused on the Housing First model and discouraged the construction of new women’s shelters.

*Shelter staff do their best within available resources to provide appropriate referrals to seniors, women and their children who cannot be admitted due to capacity or other reasons. This is the sixth annual Alberta Shelter Data Count, an outcome of the first World Conference of Women’s Shelters in 2008, hosted by ACWS.

Facts about Alberta shelters & ACWS:

  • Domestic violence (DV) shelters in Alberta are run by non-government organizations
  • While most DV shelters are emergency shelters (offering a short-term stay), a growing number of shelters offer second-stage/third stage/progressive housing and provide secure, subsidized accommodation for families escaping violence – often with childcare support and programming to support and empower. Stays in this form of secure transitional accommodation range from 6 months to 2 years.
  • Two second-stage shelters in Alberta have funding from the province on a pilot basis, but all other second-stage shelters in Alberta do not have core operational funding.
  • ACWS members provide a wide array of domestic violence intervention and prevention services including operating 36 emergency shelters and 12 second-stage shelters, in addition to other safe housing options for women.
  • On-reserve shelters in Alberta have funding contracts for services from the Government of Canada through the AANDC.
  • On-reserve shelters in Alberta have not had an increase in funding for 8 years, and were never funded at parity with their provincially funded colleagues.
  • 41 domestic violence sheltering organizations in Alberta are full members with ACWS.
  • ACWS is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support our members and work together to end domestic violence and abuse.
  • ACWS does not have operational/core funding from any branch of government, its funding is sourced from project grants, private donations and membership fees.

More about second-stage shelters:

Hoffart, I. (2014) Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters Second-stage Shelter Project: Transitioning from Domestic Violence to Stability, Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.

Woodman, K. & McCaw, D. (2008) Second-stage Shelters: Closing the gap, Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.

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