Edmonton

Alberta women's shelter visits climb 10 per cent

An expected big spike in clients at Alberta women's shelters due to the sluggish economy hasn't yet occurred, says the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.

But shelters aren't seeing as big a hike in visits as expected due to economic downturn

The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters released its annual report Thursday that says, despite the economic downturn, the province hasn't seen as big a spike in shelter visits as anticipated. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

An expected big spike in clients at Alberta women's shelters due to the sluggish economy hasn't yet occurred, says the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.

The council, which released its annual provincial shelter data on Thursday, says Alberta shelters admitted about 11,000 women in 2015, about 1,000 more than in 2014, for a 10-per-cent increase.

But a bigger increase in visits could still be on the horizon.

"We think there's a bit of lag in terms of the downturn in the economy and the effects of domestic violence," said Jan Reimer, director of the council.

The annual report says domestic violence rates and shelter visits sometimes rise when the economy slows down.

Higher vacancy rates make for short stays

In Calgary and Edmonton, women tend to spend about 20 days at a time on average in shelters, and that hasn't changed over the last three years.

However, in rural communities women are spending fewer days on average at them. In smaller towns, the average stay has declined from almost 15 days to about 10 days.

Jan Reimer, director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelter, reads the 2015 annual provincial shelter data released Thursday. (David Thurton/ CBC News)

The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters said that's because smaller communities have higher rental vacancy rates now.

"Many resource workers and companies were taking up housing. It was really hard for women to find any housing they can afford," Reimer said. "So with the downturn, women were able to access housing in a way they haven't been able to previously because more vacancies are on the market."

Lack of funding for shelters on reserves

The report notes Alberta's five women's shelters located on First Nation reserves haven't seen an increase in funding since 2007, unlike their provincial counterparts.

"When we look at all the issues of missing and murdered aboriginal women, shelters play a fundamental role in helping keep women safe on reserve communities," Reimer said. "And to have them starved on a continual basis like they have been is a real travesty and does need to end."

The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters has been urging the newly elected federal government to increase funding for shelters.