PEI

Women's advocates concerned over absence of services for homeless women

There are not enough services for women who are homeless on P.E.I., particularly emergency overnight shelters, some women's advocacy groups say.

'A serious and significant issue that affects a lot of women'

Advocates say homeless women are at risk by not having anywhere to go. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

There are not enough services for women who are homeless on P.E.I., particularly emergency overnight shelters, some women's advocacy groups say. 

The absence of temporary or emergency shelters has been a concern in Charlottetown since the closure of Grandmother's House shelter in 2012, says Jane Ledwell, executive director of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. The shelter was run by the Native Council of P.E.I. and provided temporary beds to homeless women, but closed due to lack of funding. 

People shouldn't have to knock on every door to see what help they can get.— Jane Ledwell

"Since that time there hasn't been an emergency shelter in Charlottetown," Ledwell said. "It's been a perennial topic since that closure because it really is a serious and significant issue that affects a lot of women."

Many women experience homelessness unexpectedly or inconsistently, Ledwell said, and without a safe place to go they are more likely to find themselves in vulnerable situations that perpetuate homelessness. 

"Emergency shelters could reduce the harm and increase women's options so extensively, but the resources just haven't come together," Ledwell said. 

'A place to be warm'

There are groups providing shelter and support to Island women experiencing abuse or addiction, but there is still a gap when it comes to providing emergency shelter for women who simply need a safe place to spend the night said Jillian Kilfoil, executive director of Women's Network PEI.

'Emergency shelters could reduce the harm and increase women's options,' says Jane Ledwell, left, with Danya O'Malley from Anderson House. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

"I think there are people who aren't necessarily battling addiction or experiencing domestic violence but still are not able to find safe and reliable housing," Kilfoil said. 

As the vacancy rate in Charlottetown continues to shrink and the cost of housing rises, the need for temporary emergency shelters will only grow, she said. 

Alternative options

In the absence of an emergency shelter, some women are turning to other community organizations such as Anderson House for support, Ledwell said.

"People shouldn't have to knock on every door to see what help they can get," she said. 

"But in the absence of one clear door to knock on, knock on a bunch and there will almost certainly be someone who will work as hard as they can to fill the gaps that exist in services." 

Anderson House is a shelter for women and children experiencing abuse. Executive director Danya O'Malley said when there is space, the shelter will provide beds to homeless women who need a place to stay for the night. 

"About 70 per cent of our admissions are people who are fleeing abuse and the other 30 per cent would be people who presented to us as homeless," O'Malley explained. 

She encourages women who are facing homelessness to always call Anderson House if they are in need of support, and staff there will do everything they can to help. ​

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brittany Spencer is a multi-platform journalist with CBC P.E.I. Email: brittany.spencer@cbc.ca

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