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Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter embraces new program

“Open Doors” program led by YWCA helps women who have experienced trauma

Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter (CAWES) has joined a national initiative to help women who have experienced trauma.

The “Open Doors” initiative is spearheaded by YWCA Canada, B.C. Society of Transition Housing, Women’s Shelters Canada and the Canadian Women’s Foundation and CAWES joined in January.

The goal of the program is to encourage the adoption of “trauma informed” services and what are known as “low-barrier-to-entry” services in organizations dedicated to helping women who have experienced violence.

YWCA is leading the three-year project that provides support and training to women’s shelters and transition houses on trauma-informed responses to mental health and substance use concerns.

“Selected participants will be trained on the ways that trauma can cause physiological changes that may trigger substance use and mental health concerns,” says the YWCA on its website.

Participants take a three-day training session followed by conference calls, webinars and other resources to help spread the message.

In a news release, CAWES says it has always tried to “deliver services that were client-centered and evidence-based.

“However, as we learned about the need to address trauma we have had to re-examine every aspect of our services to ensure we are not inadvertently re-traumatizing clients in an attempt to help,” says the shelter.

A CAWES spokesperson was not immediately available for further comment.

“We have also had to recognize that limiting our services to only women who experience domestic violence was not fair or justifiable: women can experience violence in many settings.”

Shelter staff are working with women in a way that “minimizes re-traumatization,” says CAWES.

“We are opening our doors to women who, in the past, we turned away or referred to other services. We are learning about, implementing, and encouraging our residents and outreach clients to consider harm-reduction strategies.”

CAWES is collecting data on client outcomes, referrals, safety and staff satisfaction as part of the Open Doors initiative. Regular updates on progress will be provided over the next year and a report will be shared with the community once findings are complete.



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