Mary fled an abusive relationship, but had to be housed in a hotel by social services. (CBC)

More than 4,000 women were turned away from shelters across the province last year, according to an advocacy group.

In a report to the City of Edmonton's Community Services Committee, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters says 6,112 women were admitted to shelters in 2011-12, while 4,566 were turned away due to lack of space.

After recently fleeing a violent relationship, a woman CBC will identify as "Mary" was sent to a hotel by social services, a common process when shelters are full.

Mary said she and her two children were close to living on the streets, so accepted the help.

"When you're leaving violence, you don't have a lot of a time frame. It's really pack and run."

Jan Reimer, director of the Council of Women's Shelters, says situations like Mary's demonstrate the need for more shelter spaces.


Jan Reimer with the Council of Women's shelters says shelters spaces have not kept up with Edmonton's rapid growth. (CBC)

"It's hard enough to go through the abuse and the trauma and then not know where you're going to end up after," Reimer said.

Reimer said while Edmonton's population has grown exponentially over the years, the number of shelter beds has stayed much the same. Although she emphasized that "shelters will always do whatever they can to keep women safe."

"Sometimes they'll bring women to the shelter just to sit there till they can find a safe place for them to go."

Province seeks longer-term solution

The Ministry of Human Services says while shelters are important as short-term solutions, its long-term approach is to create more affordable housing.


Human Services spokesperson Cheryl Tkalcic says affordable housing is a better solution. (CBC)

"Shelters are a great resource, and they're somewhere where women and children can be safe," spokesperson Cheryl Tkalcic said.

"But oftentimes, we need to help them move onto a new life as well."

Reimer said while affordable housing is important, it does not help women who need a place to go immediately.

"Mary" was able to find space in a subsidized supportive program, and wants other women to know there is always a way out.

"You start to realize you're not alone."

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters will present its findings on the lack of shelter space to Edmonton City Council next week.