This program, an adaptation of our Shelter Exchange Program (SEP), is open to Associate Members of Women’s Shelters Canada. Its objective is to provide shelters/transition houses with opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills in an area that they would like to implement change but feel they do not necessarily have the tools to do so.
The program facilitates and funds shelter workers to travel to a mentor shelter/transition house in order to engage hands-on with specific successful practices that they intend to implement or improve in their home shelter.
WSC will shortlist applicant shelters with specific learning goals for mentorship, and then recruit targeted mentor host shelters from different provinces. Selected “mentee” shelters will each send one or two staff as immersive learners for a five-day workweek. WSC covers transportation expenses while the shelters are responsible for covering accommodations and food expenses for their participating staff. Selected learner staff members will travel Sunday evening to Friday evening, shadow a host mentor, assist in programming at the host shelter, document what they learn about host shelter practices, and present back to their home shelter with ideas about how to adapt key practices to their local context.
Previous Matches in the SEP
From 2017-2019, the WSC Shelter Exchange Program, open to our Associate Members, facilitated pairs of shelters/transitions houses located in different parts of Canada to experience each other’s work cultures in a hands-on way. This “cross-pollination” has been a source of practice and policy exchange, problem-solving and validation, as well as solidifying new collaborative connections across the country.
Selected shelters each hosted two staff members, with the visiting participants shadowing their counterparts for a five-day work-week, then switching roles at the other shelter shortly afterward for another five-day work-week.
Exchange Outcomes from Recent Cycles
WSC has facilitated 7 exchanges between 2017 and 2019, covering Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
Pilot, Spring 2017:
- Mountain Rose Women’s Shelter Association in Rocky Mountain House, AB and Women’s Community House (Anova) shelter in London, ON gained inspiration on transferable practice possibilities such as building relationships with Indigenous communities, furniture storage, kitchen practices, and formal and informal approaches to harm reduction.
Year One, Fall 2017 and Spring 2018:
- Odyssey House in Grande Prairie, AB, and Maison Flora Tristan in Montreal, QC are both combined first- and second-stage shelters that exchanged in fall 2017 and learned about case management, training, Indigenous programming, and second-stage awareness-raising.
- Camrose Women’s Shelter Society in Camrose, AB and Marianne’s Place in Guelph, ON are two rural shelters who shared learning about practical tools like intercoms and agency vans in February 2018
- Portage Family Abuse Prevention Centre in Portage La Prairie, MB, and Rowan House in High River, AB, completed an exchange in March 2018 and learned about the differences in funding models and the Protection Order Designate program in their provinces.
Year Two, Spring 2019:
- HER Place in Timmins ON and Crossroads Resource Centre (CRC) in Fairview AB exchanged their approaches to Indigenous sacred medicine usage, intake and record-keeping. CRC learned about HER Place’s second stage practices and intends to work toward applying that in their own community.
- Brenda Strafford Centre (BSC) in Calgary, AB and Crossroads for Women (CFW) in Moncton, NB operate on two very different scales, with BSC supporting four times the client base of CFW. They learned about new ways to communicate around expectations for residents and possibilities for housing coordination.
- YWCA Peterborough Crossroads Shelter in Ontario and CAWES in Red Deer, AB learned about each other’s approaches and plan to replicate practices around a food co-op program, Legal Aid certificates, coordinating with local community services, and developing children’s programming space.