ALBERTA – Wednesday the Government of Alberta announced additional funds for women’s shelters. Included in this historic funding increase are targeted dollars for second-stage shelters, operational increases for emergency shelters, child trauma counselors, specialized housing & support services staff working in shelter and an increase in the fee-for-service agreements with on-reserve shelters. It’s worth highlighting that this includes, for the first time, funding for second-stage shelters: those organizations that safely support & accommodate women and children escaping violence from 6 months up to two years.
The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) has been advocating for sustained core funding for second-stage¹ women’s shelters for more than a quarter century. Prior to today’s funding announcement, two (out of 13) second-stage shelters in Alberta received provincial government funding in the form of 30-year pilots to assess the efficacy of the second-stage model.
Safety and accommodation are two critical, interwoven needs for women and children seeking lives free from violence and abuse. Research has demonstrated that women leaving abusive relationships are at a high risk of danger of being killed by their abusive current or former partners². Our member’s work with survivors in shelter has demonstrated that families in second-stage shelters are at an even higher statistical risk of femicide.
Pressures on Alberta shelters have continued to increase over the years. With each year, shelters see more and more seniors, women and children not being able to be accommodated.
Staff at women’s shelters have been diligently tracking data to demonstrate the need for second-stage, specialized housing and supports, and programs for children. This message has now been heard.
Two-thirds of women admitted to women’s shelters are accompanied by children and over a third of the women come with two or more children. Almost half of the children admitted to women’s shelters are pre-school age, and about a third of them are under the age of three³. The new dollars to offer specialized staffing to empower children at this critical age of development is key to interrupting intergenerational cycles of abuse.
“Today’s announcement is evidence that the government of Alberta is taking a holistic approach to address violence and abuse against women by ensuring that there are an array of supports available in communities throughout the province,” said Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS, “and recognizes that shelter expertise is an essential part of an informed women-centered collaborative approach.”
When Premier Notley was a member of the opposition, she raised the question in the legislature4 about the alarming number of women and children who could not be accommodated by shelters and the appropriation of new funds within Bill 3 prove that this hasn’t been forgotten. The staffing dollars for integrated case management should help decrease turn-aways (even in a limited housing market), and will allow shelter staff to focus on supporting the healing needs of women and children. There were 5,259 women and 4,946 children who walked through shelter doors in 2014-15.
Rowan House Emergency Shelter in High River is also thrilled by the news, as funding for second stage shelters has been a long time in the making.
“We are just starting our work in providing transitional housing for women leaving the short term crisis shelter and we are encouraged by this support,” said Executive Director, Sherrie Botten. “The additional dollars that are targeting programming for outreach work will also be so beneficial in our area and we’re pleased to see a commitment to children who have experienced trauma and look forward to being able to build on this specialized support we’re already providing to the families we work with.”
While the details have not been finalized yet Rowan House is hoping to have some additional monies that can be put towards the basic needs provided for women and children that come to the emergency shelter. “We currently fund raise $800,000 or 40% of our total budget,” Botten explained. “So we are hoping these extra dollars can be put towards some of this existing expense.”
Botten concluded, “This injection into the work we do with families experiencing domestic abuse and violence will not solve all the issues, but it certainly is a great start.”
About Rowan House Emergency Shelter
Rowan House is a member of the ACWS. We provide crisis intervention, long-term support and education for those affected by family violence in rural communities including High River, Okotoks, Millarville, Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Longview, Blackie, Nanton, Vulcan and Claresholm.
1 ACWS (2014) Frequently Asked Questions – in relation to second-stage shelters.
2 Cairns, K. and Hoffart, I. (2009) Keeping Women Alive- Assessing the Danger
3 ACWS (2014) Fact Sheet: Children