Although we have nearly two and a half times more beds than before, our operational income has increased by only 4%. I will talk more about this issue later, but for now, I will come back to the second issue of interest to us—existing federal programs and funding for transition houses.
As you know, the federal government does not provide funding to cover the operating costs of transition houses for women who are victims of violence, with the exception of transition houses on reserve. The majority of federal funding is intended for capital. Managing a transition house is like managing any other house. We must pay bills for public services, insurance, property taxes, food, and so on. All those expenses have increased over the years, but our core funding has only increased very slightly.
Who pays the price of that? Our responders and employees do, and that staff is made up entirely of women. Retaining qualified staff is really a major problem. At the end of the day, women and children fleeing violence pay the price. My recommendation concerning existing federal programs and funding for transition houses has to do with core funding. Ultimately, we cannot do our job effectively if we do not get the funding we need for our operations.
What are the potential solutions? We recommend that, in future legislation, shelters really be recognized as a fundamental human right. Canada needs more safe and affordable shelters for women and children. I also think it is important to keep in mind that transition houses are not “band-aid solutions”. Building more affordable housing without support services for women and children who have fled from violence is not the solution. Those two elements are really necessary. We need more affordable housing, but we also need adequately funded transition houses for women and children fleeing violence.
With adequate funding, transition houses can ensure that all women get immediate access to services. All women have the right to live and enjoy a life free from violence and abuse. Right now, we are abandoning those women if we cannot provide them with services. The only statistic I will emphasize today is the fact that, in Canada, a woman is murdered every six days by someone she knows and is very likely in an intimate relationship with.
It is impossible to cover all the challenges we are facing as a transition house, be it in terms of aboriginal women, the LGBTQ+ community, elderly women, women with disabilities or others. I decided to use my testimony to tell you about the situation of immigrant, refugee and non-status women we accommodate. I am talking to you about this to point out that core funding and the provision of specialized programs are important for transition houses.
In our house, Crossroads for Women, there are always on average three immigrant or refugee women and three children. Those women and children are facing specific barriers not known to non-immigrant women. For example, the average stay in our house is about 28 days for Canadian women, while it is 74 days for immigrant women and families. Some of the things those women are dealing with are language barriers, difficulties navigating in various systems, cost of services, the length of the process to obtain a status—which impedes all the other steps—the absence of a support system, and racism, which is an integral part of all the obstacles I just listed.
Our organization's current funding does not enable us to hire someone who could work specifically with that population and meet their unique needs. I remind you that we have 41 beds, but 85% of the time, we have a single employee on site to support the residents, prepare meals, answer calls, take in community donations, and so on. So you will understand that the issue of discrepancy between the number of existing beds and the number of available beds goes beyond the question of available physical beds. It is important for an increase in the number of beds to go hand in hand with an increase in core funding and a program for women and children.
If I had more time, I would talk to you about an employee's typical shift, but I will rather encourage you to visit a transition house in your region. You are certainly welcome to come to ours.
Before I conclude, I want to repeat that it is necessary to adopt a Canada-wide policy on housing and domestic violence.