Third annual survey of women's shelters indicates needs are high but resources low

Ottawa (29 April 2016) — The Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses (CNWSTH) has released their third annual Shelter Voices survey report on the state of shelters for women and children fleeing abuse across Canada.  Shelters from every province and territory have contributed to provide a snapshot of a day in the life of a women’s shelter.

The report indicates that on a single day, 234 transition houses and shelters were housing 1,760 women and 1,915 children.  They also helped 2,663 women and 1,633 children through programming, groups and services.  Unfortunately, on the same day shelters were forced to turn away 305 women and children due to lack of resources.  That is 73% of the 416 women and children that sought shelter on that day.

Shelter workers becoming increasingly resourceful to keep up

“Shelter workers have had to become increasingly resourceful to keep up with the increasing numbers and needs of the women and children they serve,” stated Lise Martin, Executive Director of the CNWSTH.  “In fact, 76% of shelters have relied on food donations in the last six months to meet their needs.  It is clear that violence against women is a national threat which requires a national response in the form of a National Action Plan on Violence against Women.”

Shelter and transition house workers are increasingly having to address trauma-induced mental health concerns and coping mechanisms such as substance abuse.  They are facing issues such as this and inadequate housing at the same time as government funding is diminishing or becoming stagnant.

As one shelter worker stated, “It feels like we are having to do more with less resources.  We are faced with increasingly challenging situations (mental health, addictions, immigration) and need more community resources to support the women.  We love our jobs, it isn’t always easy but it is meaningful work.” 

The National Union, working with its Advisory Committee on Women’s Issues, endorses the Blueprint for a National Action Plan on Violence against Women.  It strongly supports the work of the CNWSTH including its website.

Canadian Network of Women's Shelters and Transition Houses

The CNWSTH is a coalition of 13 provincial and territorial shelter networks representing over 4,000 shelters across Canada. It works as a unified voice to collaborate, educate, and innovate for systemic change that ends violence against women, making Canada a model for safety in the world.

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Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses

Shelter Voices


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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