Wait times at one of Calgary's long-term shelters now nearly 4 months
Discovery House helps mothers and children fleeing domestic violence, but wait times creating dire situation
Inside Calgary's Discovery House, an organization focused on helping women and children who flee domestic violence, there are 19 apartment units — and all of them are occupied.
That's causing a "dire situation," according to Leslie Hill, the organization's executive director. The waiting list is currently 112 days long to get into the facility, which is focused on providing long-term support.
"They might be staying in a hotel or motel, they might be couch surfing and not sure where they're going to stay tomorrow night," Hill said. "We've had calls from people sleeping in their cars with their children."
The organization cites the long wait times to ongoing challenges in Calgary's housing market, paired with increasing costs and rates of domestic violence.
In the summer, wait times were around 68 days. The organization said it has also seen a 27 per cent increase to the number of families on its wait list compared to the same time in 2021.
Former client Lina is using a pseudonym out of concern for their safety.
They waited four weeks to get in a year and a half ago, and fears this could cause a sense of hopelessness in victims.
"If the wait is so long, people might be staying in a very dangerous situation for a lot longer than they should, just because they feel they have no other options," Lina said.
The organization is seeking monetary support from the community, which it said it will allocate toward better access for long-term housing supports, counselling and financial aid.
Hill said along with more affordable housing, it's important for the community to do additional work to target root causes of domestic violence, which she said largely are intertwined with systemic issues such as gender equity and racism.
"Long-term, what we're aiming to do by working with women and children to heal from that trauma they've experienced, is to break the cycle of domestic violence in the future," she said. "Those solutions will have compounding effects."
She said the long wait times currently being seen at the organization is a critical issue given how important the period is after an individual leaves a domestic violence relationship.
"It keeps me up at night," Hill said.
With files from Terri Trembath