Women’s Shelters Canada, along with our member provincial and territorial shelter associations, is calling on the Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, to reinstate the Shelter Enhancement Program (SEP) as part of the National Housing Strategy being announced later this fall.
The SEP, previously housed at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), was dismantled in 2011 under the Harper government. The Fund was cancelled despite the fact that it had been positively evaluated by a third party in 2009. When we asked shelter workers a few years ago what would be the one thing that would improve the outcomes for women and children fleeing violence, an overwhelming number of responses were linked to the need for safe and affordable housing.
The reinstatement of the SEP will:
- provide dedicated funds for shelters, rather than rolling them in with other programs;
- increase the level of transparency in terms of how and when funds are disbursed;
- allow the government to take a leadership role and to begin to ensure that women fleeing violence in all regions of the country have access to comparable levels of services; and
- by decreasing the levels of transfers (from Federal to Provincial/Territorial), the funding amount provided to shelters will be greater and the amount of time to disburse would likely be reduced. This will create an efficient and streamlined funding allotment process.
We recognize the work that the government is doing in developing a National Housing Strategy (NHS), a Poverty Reduction Strategy, and a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Strategy. The potential to make real change in the lives of Canada’s most vulnerable populations will in part depend on how these three strategies build on one another. Reinstating the Shelter Enhancement program is definitely a step in this direction as it links the NHS with the GBV Strategy and ultimately has an impact on reducing poverty for a group of very vulnerable women.