While the backbone of shelters/THs are its people, organizations are struggling to recruit and retain staff, and staff are facing issues of burnout, exhaustion, vicarious trauma, and overall lack of wellness in their workplaces.

Shelters and transition houses (THs) have been struggling with labour issues for decades, but with the onset of the pandemic and rising inflation, this has reached a crisis point. Recruiting and retaining staff has become more difficult while maintaining staff well-being is a growing concern. In our national profile of VAW shelters/THs, more than half of respondents identified staff turnover and burnout, and low pay and/or benefits as major challenges. To better understand this pressing issue, we launched our Feminist Brain Drain Study in 2022 and the full report in 2024.

Together with the support and expertise of shelters/THs, we undertook a national survey, a series of focus groups, and hosted a national symposium to examine issues including organizational trauma and grief, retention, staff wellness, burnout, and vicarious trauma. We not only wanted to understand the issues but also identify ways that organizations are working to support healthy workplaces.

The survey developed in partnership with the Victimology Research Centre at Algonquin College had responses from 314 shelter workers, while we spoke to 45 workers through focus groups. Finally, we spent two days in-person discussing how to move toward action to address labour issues in the VAW shelter/TH sector. A special thanks to the Study Advisory Committee members for all their guidance and expertise.

Download the Full Report

Download the Executive Summary

Graphic Depiction of Joint Research with EVA Canada

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This project has been funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada.