‘She’s safe here’: Supportive housing opens in Calgary for women in crisis
The province opened a brand new permanent supportive housing for women in Calgary on Tuesday.
The Maple in the city’s northeast has 25 units with a shared kitchen, meeting rooms and around-the-clock support for women in crisis. Counsellors, case managers and support workers comprise the Maple’s 24-7 staff.
“Life has dealt [these women] a series of difficult challenges,” said Heather Morley with YWCA Calgary. Tribulations may include homelessness, poverty and domestic violence.
“The opportunity for them to move into a building like this that is supported, that is safe, that will give them an opportunity to launch them into a happier and healthier life is incredible,” she added.
The governments of Alberta and Canada jointly contributed about $3.6 million under the Investment in Affordable Housing Agreement. Other funding was through the RESOLVE Campaign and the City of Calgary’s Housing Incentive Program.
The women pay rent for their own self-contained apartment, living there for as long as they need.
“We don’t make any judgments in terms of how long she stays with us,” Morley said. “She’s safe here as long as she wants to be.”
Women experiencing homelessness are prone to more vulnerabilities, she said.
“They’re more likely to experience violence and exploitation,” Morley said. “So, for us, the importance of having a safe space for women can’t be underscored enough.”
‘One less stop in the cycle of trauma’
Diane Gautchier is on the client action committee with the Calgary Homeless Foundation. She was homeless from age 15 to 20.
“Looking back on it now, if there had been a place like this, I would’ve moved from the Arctic to get here,” she said. “I would’ve walked. That would’ve been that big of a change… you have a home, you have a key, you have a door.”
There’s still a stigma with homelessness and the tradeoffs made for perceived safety, she said.
“When I think of women that I have come across in my past that have been so broken and damaged, just to say, ‘I have a home.’ And they get beat up every day,” Gautchier said through tears. “Brand new damage almost every day — but damn it, they have a home. So we really have to define what that means.”
This new housing development means hope for women who are at a crossroads.
“There’s going to be one less stop in the cycle of trauma,” Gautchier said.
Get rid of shame and blame
Diana Krecsy, president and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said homelessness is not a character flaw — it’s driven by economic policy, social policy and how a city uses local resources. She said her goal is to make homeless women understand that they were doing what was necessary to stay alive.
“Often when we work with women exiting homelessness, it’s getting rid of the shame, the guilt of what has occurred in homelessness or what choices were made in order to survive in homelessness, and realize it was about survival,” Krecsy said.
It starts with safety
Bernadette Majdell is the CEO of HomeSpace Society, a charitable real estate organization that built and will manage the Maple. The group has 495 units throughout the city supported by different agencies.
The women move into the Maple this week.
“[It’s] especially exciting because we’ll have women who would not have had a home in here before Christmas,” Majdell said.
The Maple marks HomeSpace’s third partnership with YWCA Calgary for permanent supportive housing.
“We believe, as an organization, that nobody can improve their lives without a safe, secure, affordable place to call home,” Majdell said. “So that’s why buildings like this are so important for the people that we serve because here they can be safe.”
“Once they’re safely housed, then they can begin to think about what’s next for them in their lives and begin to rebuild.”
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