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Study calls for more long-term shelters

A new report argues Alberta women should have better access to “second-stage” shelters, which offer longer-term safe accommodation than emergency shelters. The study, prepared for the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters and released Friday, recommends boosting access to the facilities, saying they allow women time to get back on their feet after leaving an abusive relationship. “Alberta has way below the recommended level,” said Jan Reimer, provincial co-ordinator of the council. “We have 10 and some of them are barely operational.”  The province, for example, does not have a second-stage shelter — which offers apartment-style accommodation for up to one year — north of Edmonton. And while American research suggests communities should have three second-stage beds for every emergency shelter bed, Alberta has 730 emergency beds and only 124 secondstage apartments.  Calgary-based Sonshine Community Services, a secondstage shelter, said the problem is a lack of funding, noting only two out of the 10 facilities in Alberta receive cash from the province. “Emergency shelters receive core funding,” said Joy Johnson-Green, Sunshine’s executive director. “Second-stage shelters rely on donations and fundraising.”  The report studied more than 500 women who stayed in Alberta shelters over a two-year period. It found 75 per cent of those women were at severe or extreme levels of danger. “The public may not understand how severe the abuse is,” said Lisa Falowsky, executive director of the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. “This shows how dangerous these situations are.” The report also found women who stay at second-stage shelters have higher risk levels than those at emergency shelters, possibly because there is a longer history of abuse and they have decided to permanently leave the relationship. As a result, second-stage shelters “need to be secure environments to ensure the safety of the women and children in their care,” according to the report. One client of Sunshine, who has been living in the facility for nine months, said her time there had been “very, very helpful,” adding that security is tight.  She’s confident she now has the skills to find a safe place to live following her year-long stay at the Calgary facility. “My confidence is back. My life is getting back together,” said the woman, who goes by the pseudonym Tomasine Reid.