On November 6, 2013, Alberta’s women’s shelters recorded the number of women and children supported for the annual ‘day in the life’ count.
Full provincial shelter results can be found online.
Women and children supported in Alberta
On that day, 41 of Alberta’s family violence shelters served 926 women and 1,102 children.
On that same day, 99 women and 97 children had to be turned away.
The data count shows that Alberta shelters remain consistently full and women are staying longer.
Women staying longer in Alberta shelters
From 2012 to 2013, the average length of stay for our clients in the YWCA Sheriff King Home emergency shelter increased by 20 per cent.
In 2013, there were 2475 requests for admission to our emergency shelter. Of those requests, 1471 were unable to be accommodated due to capacity – 1059 of these turned away included children.
Every time we are forced to turn away a woman and her children we are afraid of where they will end up. Will they sleep on the streets tonight? Will they have to return home to an abusive partner? Will they spend a sleepless night in fear?
Barriers to safe and appropriate housing
Women are unable to find safe and appropriate housing for many reasons:
Unequal pay – Women in Alberta still earn just 68 cents on the dollar compared to our male counterparts.
No living wage – Alberta had the lowest minimum wage in Canada in 2013. Being female is a common trait of minimum-wage earners. A two-tiered minimum wage system in Alberta allows employers to pay those who serve liquor as part of their job – 80 per cent of whom are women – to earn nearly $1.00 less per hour than those who sling coffee.
Inequitable distribution of care giving – Due to the demands of care giving, more women work in part-time and casual positions than men, usually for lower pay without benefits, little security and consequently failing to meet eligibility criteria for various income supports and benefits.
Lack of affordable housing – For many women who are working in low wage or unstable jobs, or subsisting on social assistance, a clean, safe apartment in Calgary costs two or three times what they have the means to pay.
When women are forced to stay in shelters longer, this results in less capacity to meet the demand of women and children fleeing violence in their homes.
While the issues are complex and varied, we look forward to learning how the Alberta budget, which made many promising announcements around increases for family violence prevention, increased services for vulnerable populations and the creation of the safer communities fund, will impact vulnerable women.