Needs for women’s shelter are year-round, so are needs for donated items
Family Violence Prevention Month just passed in November and the holiday season is now upon us.
The need for awareness and about domestic violence is a year-round endeavour for organizations like the Medicine Hat Women's Shelter Society (MHWSS) that serves the women, children, and in some cases, men in leaving abusive situations in southeast Alberta.
The MHWSS is well-equipped to work with women and families who are experiencing domestic violence. Whether it's offering guidance through their 24-hour help line, providing referrals to appropriate agencies, assisting with safety planning, or offering a safe haven for those escaping violent situations, the organization is ready to help.
"Don't stay in an unsafe situation. It may be hard to leave during the holidays, but we are here to help," said Natasha Carvalho, executive director for the Medicine Hat Women's Shelter Society.
While some shelters in the province are currently reporting to be over-capacity with clients, the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society has not reached that point yet.
"We are getting close to capacity, but we aren't there yet and if we do, we have a plan in place. We want people to be safe," she said.
According to the Medicine Hat Women's Shelter Society Report to the Community 2018, in 2017-18, 404 children and 974 adults received services through their programming. Also, over 20,000 minutes of support were provided through the help line and the Children's Outreach program saw an increase of 23 percent in participants.
Comparably, according to the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters annual provincial shelter data report more than 5,000 women and more than 4,600 children in Alberta were accommodated in emergency shelters in 2015-16. In addition, 280 women and 467 children were accommodated in second stage housing.
Should the local shelters reach capacity, Carvalho said the MHWSS does have a plan in place to accommodate any additional clientele.
The Phoenix Safe House emergency shelter provides a safe place to go when one is in danger. The 30-bed facility is offered to women and children and single women who are experiencing family violence.
Besides a safe haven, they are provided with meals, support, information, safety planning, and referrals.
Families are given their own bedroom while women without children share a room when space is limited. One bedroom is wheelchair accessible. There is also a communal kitchen, dining room, living room, TV lounges, a gym, and laundry room. There are also play spaces and moms have access to the day care facility.
To access the emergency shelter, contact 403-529-1091 or toll free at 1-800-661-7949.
The Musasa House Second Stage Shelter is offered for up to one year, along with support services, for women (with or without children) who qualify for the program.
Services include affordable rent, quality child care, individual support, supported referrals, and follow-up services following departure.
Several programs are offered at Musasa House, including Breaking Free (from abuse), Life as Mom, Honouring Ourselves, Wellness, Women’s Choice, and educational support groups for children and teens.
The secure facility has 10 self-contained, three-bedroom units that are fully furnished, including linens, kitchen utensils, and dishes.
In October, they began accepting adult male victims of family violence. In 2017, seven percent of their outreach clientele were men.
Their 24-hour help line offers help and support, safety planning, information and referrals, intake into the emergency shelter, and intake for other programs offered at MHWSS. The help line is offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is completely confidential. To reach the help line, call 403-529-1019 or toll free at 1-800-6617949.
Their Housing First program is a partnership with Medicine Hat Community Housing Society that offers housing to homeless individuals and families.
"Whether its emergency shelter, second stage shelter, we connect them to what they need," said Carvalho.
The MHWSS serves all of southeast Alberta and support staff go out to rural communities, primarily for education purposes. They also work with organizations such a Family Community Support Services (FCSS) in rural communities in providing services and referrals.
"Oyen was one community that really wanted us to come out, so we have support staff who go out there to meet with parents, schools, and businesses. We wanted to let them know we are here for them," said Carvalho, adding that they also have partnerships with the shelters in Brooks and Taber.
She recognizes that there is a great need for the organization's services in rural communities.
"In rural areas, people are really isolated and isolated from support services," said Carvalho. "I know there is a lot of family violence in rural areas. In rural areas, what we mostly do is education and safety planning."
The MHWSS is always in need of items for their shelters and programs. If you wish to donate items, they ask that you call ahead to make arrangements to drop the new or gently used items. Call 403-527-8223 Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or email at [email protected]