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When Other Doors Were Closed, Ours Were Open

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters’ newest report shines a light on the impact of COVID’s “shadow pandemic” on Alberta’s domestic abuse survivors and the shelters that support them. Featuring the voices of survivors and service providers from across Alberta, it is one of the most comprehensive reports to date of how the unique conditions created by the pandemic, declared four years ago today, impacted survivors, their work, their children, their families, and their communities.

Read the ACWS COVID-19 Response and Recovery Report Now

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Recommendations from the report

  • Governments need to invest more funding in addressing the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic abuse survivors and the gender-based violence sector more broadly. The funding that was provided at the start of the pandemic has since dried up, even as the impact of the pandemic has continued and levels of need have increased. 
  • Domestic violence shelters need adequate and sustainable ongoing funding that allows them to adapt to the level of need in their communities, and to pay their staff just wages that are commensurate to their expertise and the value they bring to Alberta. 
  • Future public messaging campaigns should use a gender-based violence lens and should take into account the unique circumstances and needs of domestic abuse survivors and the service providers that support them. 
  • Government supports must be available and accessible to survivors in person as well as online. Virtual options for support are a helpful option for some people, but they are not accessible for all survivors, and they can become a barrier when they are the only option available. 
  • There should be specialized public health and natural disaster standards in place specifically for domestic violence shelters. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence shelters in Alberta were required to follow public health standards for congregate care centres that were not trauma-informed and had not been designed to meet the circumstances and needs of domestic violence shelters or survivors and their children. In many cases, these standards became a barrier for survivors seeking help and an additional source of stress for shelter staff. It is imperative that governments work with domestic violence shelters now to develop these specialized standards, so that they are ready for whatever public health or natural disasters may be coming next. 
  • Plans for new shelters should recognize the challenges of communal living environments and meet the international standard that each unit has a bathroom and kitchenette.