The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will give up to 40% for repairs, renovations or new capital investments, but for an organization that barely makes it out of a deficit, creating and finding a 60% contribution becomes basically impossible. Fundraising such a large amount is unachievable in a rural area of Nova Scotia that has high unemployment rates and a large geographical boundary.
With regard to the gap between the beds required and the number of beds, reviewing occupancy rates of shelters can be incredibly misleading. If we have a family in a room with three beds and only two are being used, it skews the occupancy rate. When a family is in-house, no single woman can stay in the same room for privacy, as well as safety, concerns. Also, if there's a woman with significant health concerns, it may be difficult or unsafe for her to be housed in a room with other women. However, it is our policy to try to put several single women in a room together as much as possible.
We do not have second- or third-stage housing, although the demand is most certainly there. If we had second- or third-stage housing, every unit would be filled today. Instead, women are staying in shelters longer, as safe and affordable housing is just not readily available in our jurisdiction. Women have left our shelter to go to substandard housing, such as apartments with no flooring other than plywood or rooming houses that are co-located with men, which is a significant safety issue for women experiencing gender-based violence. These rooms often do not have inside or outside locks, which leaves women unsafe when they are home or when they are in the community.
Single staffing of shelters also creates numerous concerns. The staff is responsible for answering the crisis line, meeting the needs of the in-house clients, letting people in and out, monitoring the overall house safety, completing intakes and departures, liaising with community partners, and case conferencing—all while trying to do supportive counselling sessions and working to complete safety assessments and plans. Sessions are interrupted, thus creating problems in the continuity of the counselling rapport.
The solutions I propose are as follows:
Address the increased demand for services by reviewing the core funding to shelters.
Fund double staffing in shelters to ensure the continuity of counselling rapport and case planning. This will also lead to shortened stays and will ensure that all the needs of the shelter are met.
Fund shelters to develop and implement both second- and third-stage housing in Canadian jurisdictions.
Review the existing Canadian shelter data and the outcomes of programs and services.
Create clear and time-sensitive communication with regard to funding allotments and project approvals or rejections.