Quick Exit
Quick ExitQuick Exit

Together We Are Stronger

December 1, 2021 

You want to see an end to violence against women and girls, and so do we. 

The month of December is upon us and with it, the yearly hustle and bustle as people prepare for the holiday season and the coming of the new year. Decorations are hung, gifts are bought, meals are planned. Many of us look forward to the feeling of “re-setting” that comes as the year winds down, and we get ready to enjoy the holidays and flip the calendar page to a new beginning.  

Sadly, there is no holiday from domestic violence. The tenuousness of our world over the past pandemic year has created challenges and uncertainty for everyone, but domestic violence remains an urgent and serious problem in our province. And women’s shelters know these challenges all too well.  

Shelters are no strangers to navigating through adversity. They have a history of finding creative ways to solve problems, often moving mountains with the equivalent of a teaspoon for a shovel. In fact, the sheltering sector might be the only place where you have to be an expert not only in domestic violence, trauma and the impact upon children, but you also need to be knowledgeable in public health, addictions, mental health, legal matters, housing policies, income supports – where else do you have to wear all those hats to be able to do your job to the best of your abilities – as well as providing an essential service?   

Since the pandemic began in 2020, it has affected the operations of shelters across the province in critical ways. They are dealing with issues such as reduced capacity, isolation requirements, outbreaks, and financial shortfalls from being unable to run their usual fundraising activities. This compounding of pressures—all related to the pandemic—has put significant stress on shelters. Shelters give to their communities in so many ways, and they also need the support of their communities, now more than ever before. 

This is why we are appealing to the public to support shelters during the winter season. You can donate to shelters in your community—they urgently need financial support, as well as donations of grocery gift cards, and more. To find out what they need, contact your local shelter directly.  

Across the province ACWS member shelters continuously adapted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and stayed focused on meeting basic needs and creating hope for a better future. We increased support for members, acting as the hub to connect and strengthen the movement, because together we are stronger. 

Supporting Shelters

ACWS was created by shelters for shelters, and exists to advocate for shelters, find resources, and provide training and support that is not available anywhere else so that shelters can continue to stay focused on their vital role. 

We greatly appreciate your donation to ACWS. When you donate to ACWs, it means increased supports for member shelters to guide women on their journey to safety. Working with ACWS members, during the past year we have: 

  • Advocated for critical services provided by shelters during the pandemic.   
  • Created and maintained the central phone line for women to access services with greater ease.  
  • Implemented awareness campaigns across the province via multiple media channels.   
  • Improved training for shelter staff working with children.   
  • Provided additional opportunities for shelter directors to receive support, training, and mentorship. 
  • Worked with members and diverse stakeholders on greater community collaboration based on evidence-based practices. 
  • Offered capacity building webinars for shelter staff. 
  • Certified 180 new front-line workers in the Danger Assessment 

Many aspects of the pandemic have become normalized, but the added resources needed to operate a shelter haven’t lessened. The “many hats” that shelters wear are commendable, but shelters are continuously asked to do more and more, with less and less. There are numerous social crises happening in the province, including a worsening opioid epidemic, greater numbers of people without housing or precariously housed, and increasing complexity in client health needs, both physical and mental and parents feeling challenges and stressed. All of these factors contribute to a perfect storm that bears down on domestic violence shelters, who must now weather the pressures of many areas stretching their actual mandate.   

We need to take the learnings from the pandemic to learn how we need to build robust systems, rooted in community—not those designed to simply be resilient until the next crisis hits.

Our Work This Year

Together with our donors, member organizations, and community stakeholders, we are making a difference; and we are counting on you to stay the course and continue to support our work. Together we are stronger, but unfortunately, conditions that feed domestic violence are heightened during the pandemic. Even though many women in abusive relationships stayed home during the pandemic, ACWS member shelters still served 6,254 Albertans escaping violence in the past year. Together we can challenge harmful beliefs and take actions to help women and their children living with domestic violence. 

Each year, through partnerships, training, public awareness, and research, we continue to lead and innovate to ensure we are accountable to those whose lives are impacted by domestic violence. Here are some of the ways we took action: 

  • We launched the You Are Not Alone campaign. A tri-provincial collaboration with Saskatchewan and BC, this campaign offered information in five languages to help connect newcomer and refugee women experiencing domestic violence with the necessary community supports and services.  
  • Working with Dr. Steve Patty, Project Impact members developed respectful and thoughtful evaluation methods to better understand the needs of those they serve. The results of this research project were published in a book that was released this year! 
  • We mailed out 900 Leading Change™ Expansion Packs to people in community to learn more about the dynamics of gender-based violence from the comfort of their own homes. 
  • We partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart and they provided emergency funding to support critical needs such as transportation, food, medication, and legal services for women during the pandemic through the Women’s Shelter Fund. 
  • ACWS is partnering with the Legal Education Society of Alberta to develop and conduct training for Alberta lawyers to educate them on the recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act and how lawyers can be better equipped to fulfill their new roles and assess relationships for domestic violence under the legislation. 
  • ACWS released the Lift Her Up: Power and Control Wheel for Women in Political Office research report, which provided data to adapt the widely used Duluth-model Power and Control Wheel into a version that reflects the parallel experiences of women in politics. 
  • We continued to provide elevated supports to shelters and their staff around the province – offering a meeting ground twice a week for shelter leaders and managers to come together to share about how they were serving families amidst COVID. 

We accomplished a lot this year despite the challenges we all faced, and in some ways, because of those challenges. We have a long way to go before we can safely say that violence is no longer an issue. However, we know that we have the tools and knowledge to make that happen, and we want to work with you to transform lives and build a brighter future for women and girls. You are the key to creating change. Each one of us has a role to play and we are grateful to you for being part of that change. 

Please make a gift today to be a part of building a future free from violence and abuse. 

With gratitude, 

Jan Reimer 

Executive Director, Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters