The Alberta Provincial Shelter Data report for 2012-13 consists of data on women, men and children who visited emergency shelters between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013. Forty-two organizations within the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters provided data for this report. Of these, thirty-five were emergency shelters, ten were second-stage shelters, and two were seniors’ shelters.
This report provides detailed information on the people served by and people turned away from shelters across Alberta. From April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013 a total of 5,642 women, 4 men, and 5,480 children were admitted to emergency shelters. Second-stage shelters admitted 239 women and 367 children. Seniors’ shelters, which serve women and men, admitted 65 women and 16 men. The primary cause for admittance into all three types of shelters is safety from abuse.
Far more individuals were turned away from shelters that could not accommodate them for a number of reasons, such as limited number of beds. Emergency and second stage shelters turned away 14,337 and 575 women, many with accompanying children, respectively. During this period, seniors’ shelters turned away 120 individuals. Individuals turned away were often connected with other resources in efforts to keep them safe. All but one emergency shelter in Alberta admits women only. The men turned away were often provided with outreach services.
Many aboriginal women were served by shelters in Alberta. In 2012-13 a total of 3,264 self-identified Aboriginal women were admitted to emergency shelters, 74 were admitted into second-stage shelters, and 11 were admitted into seniors’ shelters. This makes up 61%, 31%, and 14% of women admitted to emergency, second-stage, and seniors shelters respectively.
Shelters receive more crisis calls than in person admittance. Emergency shelters received 51,874 crisis calls, second-stage shelters received 4,412 crisis calls, and senior’ shelters received 1,817 crisis calls
The report then reflects on the meaning behind these numbers by highlighting six discussion points:
- women’s poverty is keeping services out of reach;
- length of stay is increasing;
- increasing complexity of needs;
- population growth is faster than increases in funded beds;
- children make up half of those served;
- and more support is needed.
- Over time, women are staying in shelters for increasingly long periods following a violent situation. In large cities, Edmonton and Calgary, the average stay in an emergency shelter is approximately 25 days. Overall, the average length of stay in a second-stage shelter is over 200 days. Challenges finding income supports and housing contribute to these longer stays.
Overall, the report identifies that women’s poverty, not “affordable housing”, and a lack of services are often causes for women staying in unhealthy relationships.
The needs of women seeking assistance are becoming more and more complex. Many shelters see newcomers to Canada, which include women who have English as a Second Language, and women with mental health and/or addiction challenges. The complexity of these needs results in longer stays and additional resources.
Population growth is also putting additional pressures on existing shelters. The number of funded beds in shelters is not increasing as quickly as our province’s population.
Children make up half of the individuals served by shelters. However, only one in seven support workers have a specialization in child support. The report calls for staffing structures to change to better meet the specific needs of children.
Lastly, the report highlights the need for support to second and third stage shelters. These shelters provide critical support through the dangerous time of leaving an abusive relationship and through the challenges of achieving independence. These shelters are necessary and in high demand, yet only 20% of second stage shelters receive provincial funding. Many women who were on wait lists during this period never got in to shelters.
In summary, the Alberta Provincial Shelter Data report shows the complexity of challenges faced by women seeking shelter and the challenges faced by shelters in meeting these needs.
Reviewed by Anna Kessler