The Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses (CNWSTH) applauds the Government of Canada’s decision to invest $89.9 million over two years for the construction and renovation of shelters and transition houses. For the Network’s more than 400 members, this unprecedented investment is welcome news.
Over the past 20 years, funding for shelter renovation and construction has not kept pace with Canada’s population growth. Many shelters were built in the 70’s and 80’s and are in dire need of repair and updating to more adequately meet the needs of women – notably women with disabilities who are disproportionately represented among those affected by violence.
The federal government has indicated that it will not require provinces and territories to cost-match the investments. Implied but not stated is the expectation that the provinces and territories will pick up the operational costs of running shelters. Unlike the one-time cost associated to creating new spaces, keeping them open is an ongoing expense.
Lise Martin, CNWSTH’s Executive Director said, “In our recent survey, over 60% of shelter workers told us that they had relied on food donations in the last six months. Many shelters are struggling to keep up with increased costs. Most have not seen much growth in their operational budgets over the last decade.” Since their creation in the 70’s, shelters have become much more than a safe place to stay. In fact, for every two women staying in a shelter, an additional five women are accessing services provided by shelter workers such as safety planning, counselling, advocacy and children’s programs.
CNWSTH also commends the government for its investment in housing, another area which has been ignored for far too long and has caused many hardships. In recent surveys, shelter workers were asked to name a single action that could be taken to improve the lives of women and children fleeing violence. Their most frequent response was access to safe, accessible and affordable housing. “We will want to ensure that the housing investments meet the needs of women fleeing violence and that there is coordination between the shelter sector and the housing sector,” said Martin.
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ABOUT THE CANADIAN NETWORK OF WOMEN’S SHELTERS & TRANSITION HOUSES
The Network brings together 13 provincial and territorial shelter organizations. It works as a unified voice to collaborate, educate, and innovate for systemic change that ends violence against women, making Canada a model for safety in the world.