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Media Release: Shelter Snapshot 2020

December 9, 2020

Media Release

No Domestic-Violence Vaccine


EDMONTON, ALBERTA- Today, after the province announced additional public health measures to combat rising COVID numbers, we are reminded of the essential service provided by shelter workers, who keep going into work each day to keep Albertans safe.   Fitting that also today, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) released the 2020 Shelter Snapshot:  a six-month picture of ACWS member shelter data and experiences.

Since the pandemic onset, many shelters have shared their concerns about a drop in local numbers, reinforcing experiences from other jurisdictions.   This year’s Snapshot confirms that provincially, families living in violence who would reach out to shelters pre-pandemic are less likely to reach out for shelter supports or residential services during this year’s public health crisis.

Added to all the pre-pandemic barriers women leaving abusive relationships face are increased isolation, fear of contracting the virus, and pressure to stay home.   Most of the metrics for these six months are down compared to the same time frame in 2019, and shelters are worried.

“Domestic violence itself hasn’t gone anywhere.  It’s gotten worse,” said Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS.  “Our thoughts are with all of the survivors out there who are doing their best to keep the peace, who are afraid of contracting Covid, who are unable to get support right now.”

From April 1, 2020 – September 30, 2020, ACWS members served[1]:
21,744 calls, with 7,241 of those being for crisis support
1,792 Albertans accessed shelter outreach services
2,725 women, children, and seniors through emergency shelter residential services
300 women and children accommodated in second-stage shelter units

The numbers for second-stage shelters (longer-term, secure, self-contained units with supportive programming) have remained steady.

“The ‘shelter of the future’ may look to the second-stage model of apartment-style units with their own bathrooms as a way to weather future pandemics,” said Ian Wheeliker, Director of Programs, pointing to preferred distancing and quarantine conditions. “If more shelters could be designed this way, maybe more families could be getting help who wanted to leave right now.”

Something needs to change because the Snapshot also tells us women’s experiences of violence are increasing in severity.  The Danger Assessment scores (a measure of the likelihood of abuse escalating to homicide) held firm at the all-time high set by emergency shelters last year, and the second-stage shelter scores are higher this year than ever before.

Reimer continued: “Sadly, there is no panacea for violence against women: no pill, no vaccine.  Yet while the solutions to prevent domestic violence homicide deaths are much more complex, they are not insurmountable.  We all have a role to play.”

Shelters have taken precautions to be the safest places possible for seniors, women, and their children fleeing violence and abuse – even during Covid-19.  ACWS public messaging has been reinforcing the fact that shelters are still open and that you do not have to stay in a shelter to get help from one.  Still, a key dynamic of domestic violence is the compulsion to control and this means that women are being watched

“We understand why many women are staying put and not reaching out. They are the best judges of how to keep themselves safe,” Reimer concluded. “And when they need us, we’re here and ready to help.”

Download the full report here:  ACWS 2020 Shelter Snapshot

About the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters
ACWS is the provincial network organization of women’s shelters in Alberta.  We support 41 members operating 52 shelters across the province.  ACWS serves shelters through corporate and community change; collective data and research; and frontline education and training to end domestic violence.

You can connect with a shelter near you by calling 1-866-331-3933.  If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

-:30 –

Christie Lavan   
Cell: (780)637-2073

Editor notes

Media event today will be online.  For access to post-event recording, contact Christie Lavan.
Link to RSVP to join event at 10:30am: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcqdO-vpj0qH92IRn_3ZDSeyq0AIU1-4GXy
Speakers are:
Jan Reimer, Executive Director
Ian Wheeliker, Director of Programs
Additional availability:
Jan and Ian are also available for online or outdoor (downtown Edmonton) distanced interviews in the afternoon if you would like.  Please contact Christie to schedule.

[1] ACWS 2020 Shelter Snapshot