Red Deer’s emergency shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence is getting a piece of $15 million in provincial funding announced on Wednesday.
But Julietta’s Place, a second-stage housing facility for families leaving the emergency shelter, is out of luck.
Minister of Human Services Irfan Sabir announced the additional $15 million that includes a seven per cent operational increase to offset higher costs for Alberta’s 30 emergency shelters.
It will also fund programs at 11 second-stage shelters; 84 new outreach support workers and 40 child and youth counsellors for shelters and communities across Alberta; an increase in fee-for-service rates to support on-reserve emergency shelters; and enhance data collection, research and training.
The new money brings the total annual provincial investment in women’s shelters to over $49 million — a 44 per cent increase.
“No one should have to live in fear. No one should be subjected to violence particularly in their homes, a place that is suppose to be safe,” Sabir said during his news conference in Edmonton.
Human Services said Julietta’s Place doesn’t meet the ministry’s criteria for second-stage funding because it is not as secure as a second-stage shelter and does not have staff on at all times.
Central Alberta Women’s Outreach operates the 10-suite Julietta’s Place that opened in 2010 to provide short-term affordable housing in a secure building.
Meanwhile, Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter (CAWES) will get $380,442 in new annual funding to help out with costs like utilities, food and phone, plus an additional 3.5-full time intensive case management workers and its first child trauma counsellor.
“It’s a significant input of resources into shelters and I just couldn’t be happier,” said shelter executive director Ian Wheeliker.
He said staff wages were increased a few years ago, but it’s been more than a decade since the province increased operational funding.
He said more outreach workers will help provide more crisis counselling in the community which is a focus for the CAWES when it’s safe for families to do so outside the shelter. The trauma counsellor may be made available to adults as well.
“We’ll look at what this money is intended for, where our resources are now, and how we can efficiently use the additional resources to the benefit of the community.”
CAWES and its programs serve about 2,000 women and children annually, including 400 to 500 who stay at the shelter.
The average stay at the 40-bed shelter is 20 to 25 days which is a longer than the provincial average since there is very little access to truly affordable housing in the region, Wheeliker said.
“We know the longer women stay in emergency and second-stage housing the better the long-term outcomes for them so we’re not pushing them out the doors. But we do acknowledge that does reduce the total number served.”
He said unfortunately the shelter cannot send its high-risk families to Julietta’s Place because those families have higher security needs.
Annually, 10 to 25 high-risk families from Central Alberta are sent to Edmonton, Calgary or Medicine Hat.
He said work has already started with the government and community to create a high-risk a second stage shelter for the Central Alberta region. Within two years, Red Deer needs 35 units, with two and three-bedrooms, with 24/7 security staff to restrict access to the building.
“We hope that when the government releases its budget, some capital money will be available for affordable housing. What we’re going to do is apply for affordable housing, but we’re gong to make it high-risk affordable housing.”
He said the province’s new support for second-stage housing puts Red Deer in a good position.
“We’re a major region, a major city, and we don’t have high-risk second stage. We need to be on their priority list to get it done,” Wheeliker said.
Jan Reimer, executive director of Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, called the $15 million a significant investment in the lives of women and their safety.
She said it’s been 30 years of pilot projects for two second-stage shelters in Alberta and people know they work.
“Not all women can walk out of the doors of an emergency shelter and start a new life. They’ve got legal issues. They have to find housing. Their children have trauma. They are at high risk. In fact women who are in second-stage shelters are at the greatest risk of being killed, higher even than those women who are in emergency shelters. So it really is amazing to now see that after working at least a quarter of a century to have a second-stage program that one has arrived,” Reimer said at the news conference.
“It’s a very big milestone for shelters in Alberta.”