Women's shelter cautiously optimistic about budget
Camrose Women’s Shelter executive director Nora-Lee Rear is cautiously optimistinc about the federal budget released last week. File photo/ Camrose Canadian
The Camrose Women's Shelter was cautiously optimistic about more funding for emergency women's shelters in the 2018 Federal Budget.
The budget sets aside $40 billion over 10 years for the National Housing Strategy which will include everything from combatting homelessness to affordable housing to funding for women's shelters. The founding is specifically geared towards "low household incomes, single mothers, women with disabilities, and senior women living alone."
The program intends to create 100,000 new housing units and repair 300,000 housing units for Canadians, which will potentially remove 530,000 households from housing need, and 435,000 will benefit from the maintenance and expansion of community housing. All of this will lighten the load on homeless shelters by 50 per cent.
There are a couple of issues with this for Camrose Women's Shelter executive director Nora-Lee Rear. There is a lack of specifics in terms of funding specifically for women's shelters and there is nothing mentioned in the budget about increased program funding, which is a big area of need.
"They say that there is some dedicated funding for women's shelters and second stage housing, but we have no idea how much that is actually going to translate into," said Rear. "It is encouraging, but are those dollars just going to be for infrastructure? I doubt those dollars will support staffing and programs. It's great if we can have a building but how can we support it afterwards."
The shelter is actively working on a long-range project called Second Stage, that will provide transitional housing for shelter clients as they attempt to restart their lives after staying at the shelter.
Rear says the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters spends a lot of time advocating for increases to women's shelters and second stage housing, but they have also advocated that housing be looked at through a gender based lens, something this budget did.
There could potentially be some funding for the project, but Rear is not counting her chickens yet. Funding beyond infrastructure is a major concern, she says there was discussion for a shelter in Morinville, they found funds for the building but nothing for staffing and programming.
Other similar projects have taken decades to find program funding.
"The second stage housing projects that were in Alberta previous to 2015, it took them 30 years to get sustainable funding for their shelter programs and staffing," said Rear. "Why is it so hard to fund programs that work? I don't know."
The Alberta provincial budget has yet to be released this year, but the shelter is not counting on any extra funding this year. Rear says they have not had an increase to their staffing funding from the province since 2014.
One of the big issues they are facing is the rise in minimum wage. While none of their staff currently makes minimum wage, Rear says the increase will cause the cost of everything else to increase.
"There is a trickle effect, everything is going to go up as well, I can't see that it's not going to affect us," said Rear.