The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters says that even though calls for help have decreased during the pandemic, due in large part to a lack of shelter space, they still had to turn away nearly 19,000 women, children and the elderly.
Shelter space has been in high demand for a long time. The most recent statistics, released on December 13, show that Alberta’s women’s shelters housed 6,233 people between April 2020 and March 2021.
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ACWS CEO Jan Reimer says the risk to these people is great.
“An alarming 58 percent of women who enter shelters are at severe or extreme risk of being killed by their current or former partner,” she explained.
“Almost one woman a day has been threatened with a lethal weapon or used against her by a current or former partner.”
That’s what makes it difficult to tell people that there is no room at the inn, so to speak.
Twists can happen for a number of reasons. One, the shelter just doesn’t have enough space. Second, the shelter has space, but it is not available due to public health restrictions, ”Reimer said.
“Or finally, the shelter cannot provide the services requested or needed by the caller.”
He said it could include things like mental health counseling and help with addictions or housing.
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While the number of people turned away has dropped during the pandemic, Reimer cautions that this is not a sign that the problem is going away.
“It does not mean that rates of domestic violence have decreased. Unfortunately, municipal police departments and the RCMP report that domestic violence calls have increased or remained stable. “
Reimer explained that when pandemic messages remind people to stay home to stay safe, that’s not the case for everyone, but she believes it has reduced inquiries.
“Women began to fear for their health and that of their children, they were less likely to seek support,” he said.
“But as things relaxed, we again saw those increases in demand, both for support calls and for extension calls.”
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Outreach calls, for things like safety planning, counseling and assistance in accessing affordable housing, increased during the pandemic, and shelters helped nearly 8,100 people.
Reimer said you don’t have to be in a shelter to get help from one.
“If you need help, go find her. It’s really important. “
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He expressed concern about the outdated infrastructure used by the shelters, and mentioned problems with leaky roofs and plumbing.
“They were built in the ’80s and’ 90s. Shelters have never really been given a lot of money for ongoing maintenance.”
Global News is running a donation drive in support of women’s shelters in Alberta.
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