As we wrap up the month of November, we draw attention to the ongoing impacts of domestic violence in our communities. Alberta has been recognizing November as Family Violence Prevention month for nearly four decades. Over that time, we have improved our ability to talk about abuse, we have grown our understanding of the signs of abuse, and many folks know where to find help, or empower others to find help when it’s needed. However, Alberta continues to have the third highest rate of spousal violence in Canada.
There is support for those who experience abuse in virtually every community across the province. In September at YW, we opened our new Crisis Shelter and those who came to see the space before it was fully opened were amazed at what they discovered. Consider for a moment, if you picture a crisis shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse, what comes to mind?
Is it a brand-new facility with glass doors that look straight through an open welcome space to an outdoor courtyard on the other side? Does it have fully furnished private suites with full bathrooms? Are the hallways wide for ease of access by wheelchairs or door frames that are painted a different colour from the walls to help those with limited vision?
Shelter does need to be safe, but it also needs to be accessible, open, welcoming, dignified and respectful of anyone who may come through their doors. YW’s new Crisis Shelter not only doubled in capacity from its former building but it was intentionally designed to remove barriers and facilitate new models of service delivery that look at experiences of abuse in a more holistic way than we may have in the past.
The new YW Crisis Shelter is even pet-friendly so that no one needs to leave their canine or feline companion behind. Women and their children have access to health services, mobile optometry clinics, community paramedics and other support services are all part of addressing her immediate needs. The shelter, adjacent to YW Taylor Family Home (permanent affordable housing for women and their children) shares the secure outdoor areas which include an inclusive, barrier-free playground, green spaces and a communal firepit.
But that is just one component of support, the real work begins when they are ready to move on from the shelter, on their own. A key part of long-term success is YW’s Outreach Team that continue to support her and her children long after they have left our shelter. Or she may never need to come to the shelter but with one call to YW’s crisis line, she can access the right resources to meet her needs.
While all these critical and emergent components are needed today to ensure women and children have choices, the answer to the ongoing crisis of Family Violence is prevention. YW offers a wide range of prevention-focused programs that teach and support the development of healthy relationships from the very young, through school age into adulthood; help build language skills for infants; provide parenting and caregiving courses as well as counselling for all ages.
Family violence is preventable! By learning the early signs of abuse; being aware of how that can show up anywhere from our homes to school to work; and by taking the time to learn about some of the resources in your area you become part of the solution. You can help women and children find safety and the supports they need to prosper!
If someone is in immediate danger call 911. For more information on the signs of abuse or resources in your area visit albertayw.ca. If you would like to know more about YW’s prevention focused programs and services, visit ywcalgary.ca.