As YW Calgary celebrates the Grand Opening of our newly rebuilt and expanded crisis shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence, it encourages us to look back on our history. YW’s origins lie in providing shelter for women when they need it most.
Back in 1907, women did not have the right to vote, were not able to sign banking or legal documents, and unsurprisingly, experienced discrimination when seeking housing arrangements. There were few boarding rooms and hostels in Calgary. When those were full, women resorted to knocking on the doors of private residences in search of a spare room to rent. Private landlords were reluctant to rent to women, as it was broadly assumed women would use more water and electricity to do laundry and wash their hair compared to their male counterparts.
Recognizing the challenging environment many young women were experiencing, several women in Calgary with means and capacity began to generate options to provide safe and appropriate housing for women. This ultimately led to the beginnings of what we now know as YW.
Since YW became incorporated in 1910, the organization has continued to grow, adapt and respond to women’s shelter needs as they have evolved, including through times of war, economic tumult and changing social and political pressures. Our supports have broadened beyond the shelter to providing services that help women and their families to thrive independently.
Over 40 years ago, YW was approached with a request to become a provider of a different kind of shelter support for women in Calgary: a $1 million crisis shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence to address the thousands of women and children who needed immediate support each year. With major financial pledges from the Ex-Sheriff King Trust, the Burns Memorial Fund and the Nickle Family Foundation, in addition to operating dollars from the provincial government, YW formally opened YWCA Sheriff King Home on September 14, 1983. The building could accommodate up to 30 women and their children and included a daycare and nursery, children’s playroom and kitchen, as well as dining and laundry facilities. Over the years, the building went through multiple renovations to continue to adapt and change based on the needs of the community. In more recent years, the building became less flexible and we needed a space that reflected our commitment to serving women and their families. The new building would support the continually evolving and growing complexity of need within the community.
How fitting that almost 40 years later, on September 6, 2023, YW will celebrate the Grand Opening of the newly rebuilt YW Crisis Shelter, which has been re-imagined and re-designed to, once again, adapt to the needs of its community. The new shelter is built using trauma-informed design to ensure we can holistically care for and support healing for the women, gender diverse people, children and pets that come through our doors.
Our full breadth of support services offered to women at risk of experiencing violence is aimed at preventing violence before it begins, while offering safe shelter for those in need. The Shelter and Hub support stability and prosperity for women while encouraging healthy development of relationships and opportunities within the community that remove risks of violence, poverty and mental health barriers. YW is privileged to have the trust of our community to ensure we are serving women and their families when and where they need us most while we strive toward a future free from violence. We are thrilled to be celebrating this new chapter in supporting women and their families in our community.
While our doors are set to open September 6, the work continues! YW needs your help to reach our fundraising goal. You can be a part of providing safety and security, healing from trauma, connection to community and new opportunities for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Click here for more information about how you can support.