Wait times at Calgary’s Discovery House hit 112 days for those fleeing domestic violence

The lobby of Discovery House, a Calgary charity and organization focused on helping families fleeing domestic violence. Contributed by Discovery House

Families leaving domestic violence in Calgary are experiencing longer wait times before they can access crucial shelter and support services.

In a news release on Thursday morning, Discovery House said families seeking housing are currently waiting up to 112 days to access shelter and support services, more than double the wait time from this summer. Discovery House is a local registered charity dedicated to helping those who are fleeing domestic violence.

Calgary’s housing crisis, along with increasing costs and higher rates of domestic violence, have created dangerously long wait times, Discovery House executive director Leslie Hill said.

This creates a lot of vulnerability for the families she works with because Discovery House is often the second step after a family leaves an emergency shelter.

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“It is a really precarious time for people and it can be really dangerous. When a woman leaves a domestic violence relationship, that’s actually one of the most dangerous times because their partner might be trying to take control of that relationship,” Hill said.

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“Around 52 per cent of the women who come to our shelter are at severe or extreme risk of being killed by their abusive partner… They need safety and security and when it’s not available they might be staying with family and friends, in a hotel or motel, or sleeping in their cars.”

Hill also said more people are trying to access Discovery House’s services than ever before. Staff saw a 27 per cent increase to the number of families on the waitlist compared to this time last year.

Families are also staying at Discovery House’s shelter for longer periods of time.

“We’re seeing more people needing our services and it being harder for people to move on to their own spaces in the community when they come here, so they’re staying longer in our shelter,” Hill said.

“We really need our society to invest in an affordable housing strategy and to bring more rental units on the market so people have a safe place to go to… There are systemic issues around poverty that impact our ability to move people on and those are the long-term solutions to this crisis.

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“It used to be that people would stay for six or seven months on average. We’ve seen that increase to 10 or 11 months, or even over a year sometimes. That’s because of the affordability crisis.”

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