News / Edmonton

New funding helped, but thousands still turned away from Alberta women's shelters: Report

Alberta Council of Women's Shelters releases new data showing more than 22,000 were turned away from shelters in past year

Alberta Legislature

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Alberta Legislature

An “unparalleled” injection of funds for Alberta women’s shelters has proven effective, according to a new report.

Data from the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters released last week shows the $15-million provincial investment into shelter outreach has led to an 18-per cent decrease in the number of women turned away in 2016-17, compared to the previous year.

It has also meant a 45 per cent increase in outreach services accessed by women and children who turned up at shelters, whether or not they were able to stay at the shelter.

“It didn’t increase necessarily the number of women served, but what it did was it really increased the capacity of those organizations to provide better service to the women and children that they were serving already,” said Carolyn Gourd, the council’s director of member services.

Still, more than 22,000 women were turned away from shelters across Alberta in the same time frame, which Gourd said signals a need for further funding increases.

Of those women and children who did not get in due to capacity issues, more than 13,000 were forced to return to live with their abuser or become homeless.

While shelters in bigger cities are most likely to be over capacity, Gourd said shelters on reserves in Alberta are going chronically underfunded.

On-reserve shelters fall under federal jurisdiction, and despite promises made years ago and advocacy by groups like ACWS, they are funded at about 45 per cent of the rate of shelters that are not on reserves, which fall under provincial jurisdiction.

“The consequences are they don’t have enough food to feed women. A big role of the emergency shelter with women and children coming in is often women come in with nothing, so there’s a big component of basic needs being met,” Gourd said.

“Outreach services are not funded, nor are services for children.”

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Alberta has 41 women's shelters

22, 274 women and children were turned away from shelters in 2016-17. Of those, more than 13,000 were forced to return to live with their abuser

53% of women were homeless upon entering second-stage shelters

5% of women were homeless upon leaving second-stage shelters

54.7% of women who access shelters in Alberta are Indigenous

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