Needs for women’s shel­ter are year-round, so are needs for do­nated items

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Southeast Alberta - BY JAMIE RIEGER jrieger@prairiepos­

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

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