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More housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence

May 30, 2022

On May 27th, 2022, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, along with the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, and George Chahal, Member of Parliament for Calgary Skyview, announced $121.2 million to construct and repair shelters across Canada, including those of two ACWS members in Cold Lake and Whitecourt.

This federal funding is being provided through the Women and Children Shelter and Transitional Housing Initiative, under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund. The funds announced are part of the first window of a $250 million initiative announced to support the construction, repair, and operating costs of an estimated 560 units of transitional and shelter spaces for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

ACWS board president, Gaye Warthe, was in Calgary to represent ACWS and its members at the announcement. The following are her remarks from the event.


I am very happy to be here today representing the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters to celebrate this news from the Honourable Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, and  Minister Ien from Wage and Gender Equality. Today’s announcement about the 16 projects being funded through the Indigenous Shelter and Transitional Housing Initiative is welcome news and will benefit all Albertans.

It’s so wonderful to see a strategic initiative that was launched so many years ago come to fruition. The partnerships and strategic thinking that ACWS was involved that ultimately led to the development of Women’s Shelters Canada and to this announcement today. It is this spirit of collaboration benefits not just individual shelters, but shelters across the province and indeed the entire country. Working together has benefited all of us, and we are so pleased to see it happen. We look forward to continuing to work with Women’s Shelters Canada and their national advocacy.

Our members in Whitecourt and Cold Lake are also very grateful for this good news. Susan White, the Executive Director of the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre in Cold Lake, shared with me that she is relieved to hear about this new funding for urgently needed shelter space. Susan said, “This funding comes at a critical time and will allow us to increase our capacity in order to meet the needs of our community. It has been heartbreaking for our staff to have to turn women away. With the shelter enhancement funding, we will now be able to help more people when they are at their most vulnerable.  We are designing the new shelter building to be accessible, welcoming for all, and energy-efficient.”

Similarly, in Whitecourt, Becky Wells, Executive Director at the Wellspring Family Resource and Crisis Centre, shared that they are very much looking forward to being able to finally increase their capacity to help people who need support as they escape from situations of violence and abuse. “Safe spaces like our crisis centre are much needed in our community – and the improvements to our physical infrastructure will allow us to support so many more people who need our services, both residential and outreach.”

In Alberta, women’s shelters are in a position of trying to “catch up”. In terms of capacity, shelters across the province have been struggling. When the shelter enhancement fund was removed from the housing strategy––significant gaps were created when it came to the maintenance and construction of women’s shelters within the National Housing Strategy. This was at a time when Alberta’s population was skyrocketing and shelters were already stretched to capacity. We fell behind. Indeed, under the National Housing Strategy, there were times when only the province of PEI received less funding than Alberta.  This was the situation for 10 years and, as all of us know, during the pandemic, shelters have been stretched even further.

It’s heartening to see that shelters are being recognized for the amazing work they do – it’s abundantly clear from the data that ACWS collects every year that shelters are very much needed by their communities. They are vital supports, keeping women alive. We recognize that robust and consistent support from all levels of government and the community is key for shelters to keep their lights on, their doors open, with knowledgeable and caring staff.

Shelters in Alberta are looking to design shelters for the future, and not the past. Through decades of research and frontline experience, shelters are experts in their service delivery. We now know a lot about what works and what could be improved when it comes to how shelters are built. The shelters of the future will be trauma-informed and inclusive spaces that allow for survivors to live with dignity and support as they transition to lives free from violence.  They will also be designed to help us address the significant impacts of climate change.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Women’s Shelters Canada and their staff for the excellent work they have done in moving this forward. ACWS sits on the advisory committee for Women’s Shelters Canada; we worked with CMHC to help design the program, and today’s announcement is really a testament to our belief that when we work together we are stronger. The ability to have operational costs included is truly amazing! Thank you.

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