Shelter Voices

Shelter Voices: New survey shows reality of a day in the life of Canada’s shelters for women survivors of abuse

March 5, 2014

New survey shows reality of a day in the life of Canada’s shelters for women survivors of abuse

March 5th  / Ottawa – The Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses  of which the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia[THANS] is a founding member,  today released their first pan Canadian annual survey SHELTER VOICES on the state of emergency shelters in Canada.  The survey shows that on one day, 242 shelters in Canada helped 4,178 women and 2,490 children. The survey also shows that 116 women were pregnant and 184 had been threatened by a gun. In 2014, violence against women remains a major barrier for far too many women in achieving their full potential.

“Canada can and must do more to end violence against women” said Pamela Harrison, Provincial Coordinator “This survey brings to us the voices of women survivors and their children and the voices of front-line shelter workers who are incredible change agents within their communities. Concern over inability to effectively address increasingly complex issues faced by clients and the feeling of not being able to affect the systematic causes of the issues facing clients were the top two most critical issues for shelter workers” said Harrison.

The survey also showed that the three biggest challenges for shelters are lack of government funding (70% of shelters reported), gaps in services and supports for marginalized women (62% of shelters reported) and lack of supports when a woman leaves the shelter (62% of shelters reported).

“This survey is critical to the ongoing development and advocacy for greater services and supports for women who are rebuilding their lives after leaving an abusive situation,” said Anuradha Dugal,Director of Violence Prevention at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, one of the major funding partners for SHELTER VOICES. “This data shows us that too many Canadian women are having to access emergency shelters because they are not safe in their own homes and that as Canadians, we must continue the crucial work to raise awareness and funding for services that support women survivors of abuse.”

Shelters contribute more than a safe place to stay. They are a focal point connecting women to the services available which are far too often insufficient and uncoordinated. The Network is committed to working towards long term systems change.  When asked to identify one thing that would make things better for women and children, access to safe, affordable and permanent housing options came up time after time. Workers noted that “this is one of the main reasons that women end up going back to abusive relationships time and time again”.

“Don’t give up on us because so many of us have already given up on ourselves.” “I came here scared and confused, they made me realize that I am worthy of so much more.” “This is the best and safest place to live ever!” These are a few of the voices that came out of the SHELTER VOICE survey.

The 242 participating shelters completed an on-line questionnaire to reflect the data of one specific day in the life of their shelter during the week of November 25th, 2013.  The data from this survey is part of a global data count, a yearly initiative of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters coordinated by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.