Report: Invest in women's shelters to solve women's homelessness

Media Release
September 7, 2017

Report: Invest in women’s shelters to solve women’s homelessness

EDMONTON, AB– The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters together with sixteen of their members have published a report: A Safe Path Home, based on their collaborative work over the last two years. The report highlights the work of second-stage women’s shelters in Alberta and provides practical recommendations that government can implement to support women and children who have become homeless due to domestic abuse.
Jan Reimer, ACWS Executive Director, says current definitions of homelessness need to change: “When women flee violence at home, they are homeless. These women may not fit into traditional understandings of homelessness, but when the choice they face is between violence at home, the risk of violence on the streets or in homeless shelters, plus the risk of losing their children to foster care or to their abuser – it is clear their need is acute.”
Reimer said she would like to see Alberta housing services follow the example of other provinces that give special priority to victims of domestic violence. British Columbia, for example, has a priority placement housing program for women fleeing violence[1]— and second-stage women’s shelters are built into their housing strategy.
“The fact is, current affordable housing and homeless shelters are not always tailored to support women and children fleeing violence,” Reimer said. “Second-stage women’s shelters are the only long-term housing supports that offer their expertise in creating safety from domestic abusers, trauma and violence informed care, wrap-around supports and specialized children’s programming.”
Second-stage shelters can boast some strong outcomes based on recent data. At the end of their stay in shelter, 87% of women were able to achieve progress towards their goals and over 80% were satisfied with services they received. While a staggering 67% of women were homeless upon entering shelter, only 9% were moving into unstable housing/homelessness upon exiting. More than half of women (55%) were moving into stable housing at the end of their stay.

Provincial funding announced in 2015 allowed second-stage women’s shelters to significantly strengthen their service offerings (all but two shelters previously operated without any government funding at all). Shelters were able to develop new programs, increase the scope of outreach services, hire child trauma counsellors and expand child-focused services. Ongoing investment will be needed to sustain these changes.


About ACWS
Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) supports member shelters and works together to end domestic violence and abuse. ACWS was incorporated in 1983 and is a registered charity.
ACWS Charitable Registration: #118780634RR0001

ACWS Media contact: 
Eoin Murray
Communications and Partnerships Advisor
Work Phone: 780-456-7000 ext. 231
Cell: 780-218-4468

Second-Stage Reports:

Public Second-Stage Report with Highlights and Recommendations:

Full Second-Stage Report

About Second-Stage Women’s Shelters
Second-stage women’s shelters are safe, longer-term apartment style residences that are part of the spectrum of domestic violence and housing services. These shelters serve women and children whose needs resulting from abuse are not met by a short-term stay in women’s emergency shelters.
Women typically stay in second-stage shelters between six months up to two years. In 2016-2017, the average length of stay for women in second-stage was 214 days, compared to an average of 15 days in Alberta women’s emergency shelters [ACWS Annual Statistics 2016-2017].
            Second-Stage Demographics

  • The average age of women in shelter is 35 years old.
  • 87% of women were accompanied by children.
  • 60% had two or more children.
  • 49% of children were preschool age.
  • 24% of women in second-stage shelters immigrated to Canada.
  • 35% of women in second-stage shelters were Aboriginal.
  • 67% were homeless or living in short-term accommodations when entering shelter.
  • 22% suffered severe injuries from abusers, including:
    • broken bones
    • bruises
    • cuts/abrasions
    • stab wounds
    • neck injuries/concussions
    • miscarriages
    • internal organ injury
    • chronic mobility impairment
    • eye trauma
    • hearing loss