Women’s Shelters Canada (WSC) launched a new Community of Practice (CoP) with 41 shelter workers, from 25 VAW shelters and transition houses (THs), in eleven different provinces and territories that are working to adopt a harm reduction model and reduce barriers to service at their shelter, and who want to work with and learn from other shelters on this journey.

VAW shelters/THs across the country are seeing increasing levels of complexity in their work as they support women who are not only fleeing violence, but also dealing with challenges related to substance use and mental health. There is increasing recognition of the fact that women who use substances and experience mental health challenges are some of the most vulnerable women fleeing violence and that barriers to accessing services can put them at risk of further violence. In addition, mental health and substance use are often directly connected to the violence and trauma that women have experienced. As a result, many shelters are working hard to reduce barriers to accessing their services and adopt a harm reduction approach. Making this shift requires significant change to all aspects of shelter policy and practice, and can be a challenging process to undertake. WSC has launched this CoP to support shelters along this journey.

The CoP will take place over two years, from September 2022 to September 2024, and will involve a mix of virtual activities and an in-person meeting.

Participating shelters have access to:

  • A community of like-minded shelters and transition houses from across the country that they can connect to, learn from, and work with on common areas of interest and need
  • Mentors from shelters and transition houses that have already implemented harm reduction practices and can share lessons tips and learned based on their experiences
  • Learning sessions with experts on a variety of relevant topics
  • Support to develop and implement a concrete action plan to reduce harm and lower barriers

If you have any questions about the CoP, please contact Sophie Wertheimer at swertheimer@endvaw.ca.