Women’s shelter in Edmonton closing

The closure of a women’s shelter in north Edmonton has some in the domestic violence service agency world concerned that more cuts could be coming to such areas as governments scramble to balance budgets.

The Edmonton WIN House III shelter, a specialized shelter that aids women who are immigrants or temporary foreign workers who face cultural exploitation or violence such as human trafficking, so-called honour violence or other forms of family or gender violence, recently became a casualty of budget cuts.

The WIN House’s grant funding was cut, forcing it to close this fall. While some temporary solutions have been suggested, nothing of consequence has been indentified and politicians are lining up to decry the closure, while also saying it’s not in their jurisdiction to fund the shelter.

As November is Family Violence Awareness Month, the issue hits home in more ways than one. Stop Abuse in Families Society director Doreen Slessor said it’s alarming to see any shelter close, especially one in north Edmonton, which likely handles calls from St. Albert, Sturgeon and Morinville.

SAIF has, since 1989, provided services to clients who are experiencing abuse and its devastating effects to the family unit, noted Slessor. SAIF also offers support groups, and provides educational prevention programs to schools and groups in this community.

Slessor said the issue of domestic violence resides in this area and not just among immigrant women and temporary foreign workers.

“Well, our agency has been around for 25 years, so there’s a reason we’ve been around for 25 years,” she said.

“We’ve been good at hiding our problem in St. Albert, because we have money.”

Slessor said women and children fleeing abusive situations in and around St. Albert often have financial resources people in other communities might not have. Women in this community may have the finances to get a hotel room, find other housing and pay for belongings they had to leave behind and may be better educated about the options and resources available to them. But just because St. Albert is affluent, doesn’t mean there is no abuse here.

“We certainly have family violence in St. Albert,” said Slessor.

Slessor pointed out there is no crisis housing option in St. Albert for local families, including Sturgeon County and Morinville. Instead, women and children have to go to Edmonton.

Looking at the WIN House III situation, Slessor said she’s very sympathetic and notes government grants can be ethereal.

“As agencies we have to be aware that government funding isn’t always as reliable or sustainable as we think,” said Slessor.

She pointed out the Wild Rose grants were cut five years ago, then replaced with the Community Spirit grants for various programs and social services. Now the Community Spirit grants have been cut.

“That’s $25,000 that just got cut overnight to some of us agencies,” she said.

A link to the article can be found here.