Shelter Exchange Program

The Shelter Exchange Program is an exciting new initiative that pairs shelter workers from shelters/transition houses in different provinces or territories in reciprocal exchanges, to learn from each other’s work, practices, and contexts in a hands-on way.

In 2016-2017, the Network is doing a Pilot Program, working with shelter directors to facilitate two exchanges between four shelters:

  • One exchange between two shelters who serve significant indigenous populations and offer (or are actively planning) services that respond to the needs of indigenous women.
  • One exchange between two shelters who offer (or are actively planning to offer) supports for women with substance use concerns.

During the program, shelters each host one or two staff members, with the visiting participants shadowing their counterparts for a five-day work-week and then switching roles at the other shelter shortly afterward for another five-day work-week. The program is open to Associate Members of the Network.

The Network covers transportation expenses while the shelters are responsible for accommodations and food expenses. The Network also facilitates the development of learning goals and reflection frameworks. Directors at each pair of shelters work closely together to build mutual rapport and arrange personalized Terms of Agreement. Each identifies the most suitable staff members for the exchange. Participants also commit to sharing their learnings with the Network by providing a short written report.

The program is inspired by the experience of Executive Directors Silvia Samsa (Women’s Habitat in Toronto) and Kendall Trembath (Saakaate House in Kenora) and their staff. These women implemented their own front-line shelter staff exchange in 2015 and found it to be a very positive tool for relationship-building, mutual learning, and overcoming concerns about changes to programming through seeing a similar program in action.

The Network will implement an ongoing Shelter Exchange Program starting in 2017-2018, with revisions based on feedback from the 2016-2017 Pilot Project experience, with the goal to expand the program to facilitate four shelter exchanges and bring the experience to an additional eight shelters.