A staff member carries bedding in one of the suites at Toronto's Interval House, an emergency shelter for women in abusive situations, on Feb. 6, 2017. A new report shows emergency shelters in Alberta haven't been able to provide refuge to thousands of women who are fleeing domestic violence due to a lack of space. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Alberta women’s shelters turn away thousands due to lack of space and staff: report

Emergency shelters in Alberta haven’t been able to provide refuge to thousands of women who were fleeing domestic violence due to a lack of space, a report shows.

The data, which runs from April 1, 2021, to March 30, 2022, was compiled by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters from more than 50 member shelters across the province.

It shows shelters received 65,390 calls for help, and about 25,530 of those callers requested admission. About 16 per cent of those calls led to a woman being admitted, says the report released Wednesday.

“Shelters are under-resourced,” the report says. “This means not everyone gets the help they need.”

The report says shelters had to turn away 11,546 requests for admission by women and seniors, along with 6,241 children, because they were full.

Another 7,570 women and seniors, as well as more than 3,336 children, were turned away for other reasons such as staffing shortages or the shelter not having enough resources to meet the complexity of their needs.

The report says people who use substances could negatively affect children and other shelter residents. People with mental health concerns might be turned away because the shelter doesn’t have resources to address them, it adds.

When people are turned away from a shelter, it says they often have limited options for a safe place to stay.

“Many will end up sleeping in cars, on the streets, living temporarily with friends or relatives, or returning to their abuser,” says the report. “There is a critical need for safe and affordable housing in the province of Alberta.”

Jeremy Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services, said at a separate news conference about affordable housing Wednesday that he saw the report earlier in the day.

“This is something that’s important to me, it’s important to this government that when people are experiencing domestic violence, that they have somewhere to go,” he said when asked about it by a reporter.

“We are doing and will do everything we can to make sure that individuals fleeing domestic violence have supports, and I am looking into this.”

At the news conference, Nixon announced $55 million over three years so Albertans have more access to affordable housing.

The government said the program is to help public, non-profit and private sectors build more homes for seniors, families, people with low incomes, disabilities and victims of violence.

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