WATCH: As our population and cost of housing grows, women’s shelters across Alberta are facing a severe crunch. Tom Vernon explains.
EDMONTON — The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters says the number of women being turned away due to overcapacity at local shelters is at an “all-time high.”
According to data collected between April 2013 and March 2014, Alberta shelters admitted 5,710 women. However, the data also shows that 8,427 women could not be served due to overcapacity and were turned away.
Jan Reimer, executive director for the ACWS, says the number of women who can’t be accommodated has risen significantly in Alberta.
“There’s a lack of housing,” she said Friday. “We have a housing crisis in Alberta, I think people recognize that, particularly subsidized housing.”
Reimer believes part of the reason for the increase is because women are staying in shelters longer than they have in the past.
“By and large, it’s just that we haven’t kept pace with the population growth and in all the surrounding systems women have to stay longer. And when women have to stay longer, women can’t get in.”
Human Services Minister Heather Klimchuk insists this data does not mean women are going without services.
“No child or woman is ever, ever turned away from a shelter, to be very clear,” she said. “If a shelter is full on that night, we make alternate arrangements for a hotel, another space.
“We have wraparound services that support the family, whether it’s a social worker … police if they need to be involved and medical help.”
Klimchuk says the government has increased funding to Alberta women’s shelters by $3 million.
However, the executive director of Wings of Providence, which provides transitional housing and support services to women and children who have experienced family violence, says they are still feeling the pressures of a booming population. Pat Garrett says ideally, they would like to see their resources tripled to keep up with demand.
“Unfortunately, there’s a huge demand,” said Garrett. “Certainly we have to turn away families because we don’t have space. So this is a challenge throughout the province.”
The crisis centre has 20 apartments, which house upwards of 50 women and their 150 children. Accommodations are offered on a six-month basis.
Torrie, an Alberta woman whose name has been changed to protect her identity, says the shelter has been life-changing for her and her young son.
“It was very abusive. There was a lot of verbal abuse, some physical abuse, a lot of control and isolation and I decided about a year ago that I wanted to get out,” she explained. “It was really hard. I wanted to go back many times.
“I hadn’t had a bank card, I had no ID, I had no identity. And then moving here, it’s my own space, I can decorate how I want … It was a safe place to come and I hadn’t known that for so long.”
Torrie knows there are many women out there who also need a way out, and says they should never be told no.
“So many people are turned away. And some women only have that one chance to get away and to be turned away, I think it’s a crime.”
The ACWS says the data it gathered over the past year does not reflect the increased funding by the government. The ACWS says it is optimistic the increased funding will connect more Alberta women with the services they need.
With files from Tom Vernon, Global News.
© Shaw Media, 2014