Alberta women's shelters given $15M in new funding
New funding will help find safe homes for victims, hire more outreach workers
Fifteen million dollars in new funding committed by the province Tuesday to the battle against domestic violence is being hailed as an "historic" investment, something advocates say they've been waiting 30 years to see.
"I think this is the best news that Alberta shelters have had in a very long, long, long time," said Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.
"It's a welcome and very significant investment in the lives of women and in their safety."
The new money, announced by Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir, will ensure a broader range of supports are available to women and children escaping violent homes, including counselling and help finding new housing or accessing financial assistance.
"The Alberta government is committed to protecting women and children affected by family violence," Sabir said. "This new funding will help ensure they are safe and get the support they need to maintain their independence free of violence."
Lawyers who work with women trying to escape abusive spouses or partners also applauded today's announcement.
Sarah Dargatz, a family lawyer and the team leader of the Edmonton protection order program with Legal Aid, called the extra funding "fantastic."
"Having access to safe, affordable and anonymous housing is very essential for the safety of women and children," she said.
High rates of domestic violence
Reimer said Alberta has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country. At least $5 million of the new money will go toward what are called "second-stage shelters," apartments where women pay subsidized rent while they work towards independence.
"Things don't happen fast, things don't get resolved on an emergency basis. They take time and that second stage housing definitely provides us with the time to go through that process in an appropriate way," said Dargatz.
Not all women who leave emergency shelters can simply start new lives, Reimer added. Those women need subsidized apartments and community support.
"We have had 30 years of pilot projects for two second-stage shelters," Reimer said. "Thirty years. We know second-stage shelters work."
Statistics show that women in second-stage shelters are at higher risk of being killed than those staying in emergency shelters.
The average length of stay in emergency shelters is 14 days. But many such shelters are full, and women are being turned away.
Some women are staying longer in emergency shelters because they have nowhere else to go, Reimer said. That creates bottlenecks, with some women waiting to get into shelters and others waiting to get out.
The extra money will go toward:
- helping offset increased operating costs at women's emergency shelters;
- providing program funding in all 11 second-stage shelters;
- hiring 84 new outreach support workers and 40 child and youth counsellors to work in shelters and communities across the province;
- increased fee-for-service rates to support on-reserve emergency shelters, and;
- enhancing data collection, research and training.
The extra funding will bring the province's total annual investment to more than $49 million to support women's emergency and second-stage shelters, Sabir said.