Increased funding for Alberta’s women’s shelters having impact but more needed: Shelter executives

Numbers suggest Alberta’s increased funding of women’s shelters is having an impact
WATCH ABOVE: It appears a move by the Alberta government to better fund women's shelters is paying. New numbers show more women and children are getting help but as Julia Wong reports, more are also being turned away.

New numbers released by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) show a funding increase from the province in 2015 is having an effect on the number of people receiving care and outreach services, but there is a call for more to done to help women and children fleeing family violence.

In 2015, the province announced it would boost funding to women’s shelters by $15 million. Data collected from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 shows that outreach services provided to women and children increased by 45 per cent, supporting an additional 6,147 women and children, according to the ACWS.

RELATED: Number of women not accommodated by Alberta shelters at ‘all-time high’

“I think what this demonstrates is when you do invest in women’s shelters, you do get results,” said ACWS executive director Jan Reimer.

“A continuing investment in women’s shelters will really impact the lives of women and children throughout the province.”

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The figures from the ACWS show that the numbers of people turned away at shelters were down by 18 per cent, however, the ACWS said demand still outstrips supply when it comes to those escaping domestic violence. In fact, the ACWS said 22,274 women and children were turned away from emergency shelters from 2016 to 2017.

“We’re seeing women turned away far too many times and so we still have a significant issue in terms of the capacity of women’s shelters to meet the significant need that’s out there,” Reimer said.

Cindy Easton, the executive director of the Mountain Rose Women’s Shelter in Rocky Mountain House, said the increased funding allowed the organization to hire additional staff.

“Having an extra outreach person, we’ve been able to provide more support in the community, we were able to provide transportation,” Easton said.

“We don’t have a lot of resources. So many times — when women are in crisis and experiencing domestic violence or violence, sexual assault — we’re the only place in town.”

Pat Garrett, executive director of Wings of Providence, said her organization was able to fund two positions as a result of the funding increase two years ago.

“One youth worker and then one intensive case management position, which assists us with women who may not want to come into second-stage shelter. They might just want some referrals and some support — some system navigation assistance,” she said.

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“It just helps us with our ever-increasing operating costs. It improved our workload because it is a heavy workload for the staff as well serving more people, and that’s critical to the work that shelters do.”

Easton said that while the investment has been worthwhile, more needs to be done.

“In our rural area, we’re only a 10-bed shelter. We really need more capacity. We need more beds,” Easton said.

“We certainly do need continued support across the province.”

Garrett echoed Easton’s sentiments that while additional funding is a good first step, much more can be done to help victims of family violence.

“There’s still a lot of need — high demand. We just have to keep looking at ways to support shelters and the work they do so we can continue to increase capacity, but that takes dollars to do that and staffing.”

Kate Toogood, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community and Social Services, said the province “stands with survivors” and has invested millions of dollars in shelters and a variety of programs to help address domestic violence. However, she could not comment specifically on whether more funding will be allocated to shelters.

“We’re still in the process of reviewing our programs and services as we head into the budgeting process, so we can’t provide any further information at this time,” she said.

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Global Edmonton’s annual campaign to gather toys and other items for women and children fleeing domestic violence kicked off earlier this month.

READ MORE: Give Me Shelter campaign underway to help victims of domestic violence

The Give Me Shelter campaign collects basic needs like clothing and toiletries and provides them to five women’s shelters: Win HouseWINGSA Safe PlaceLaSalle Residence and Lurana Shelter.

The campaign runs until Dec. 15. Donations can be dropped off at the Global Edmonton station at 5325 Allard Way.