It’s been a roller-coaster of a year for Edmonton Women’s Shelter’s WIN House. WIN III (now called Carol’s House) is a shelter specifically for immigrant, refugee and trafficked women and their children who are fleeing domestic violence, or a life of slavery in the case of human trafficking victims. The shelter has been operating since 2010, but the funds ran out last fall and WIN III closed its doors on October 31, 2013.
But an option presented itself: Renee Gouin-Katz, wife of local billionaire Daryl Katz, made a $250 000 donation to the shelter at the time, which has been renamed Carol’s House in memory of her mother who was a strong supporter of women’s causes in Edmonton. Carol’s House was supposed to open last January, but extra funding didn’t come through. When the province announced $3 million in additional funding to women’s shelters across the province in the summer, WIN III did not receive any of it. But things are looking up now.
Edmonton’s Homeward Trust, a not-for-profit with the goal of housing every person facing homelessness in the city, has committed up to $393 215 in funding through the provincial government. An additional $533 620 was secured through the province’s Innovative Child Care Program, the Royal Alexandria Hospital, and Gouin-Katz’s donation.
Tess Gordey, executive director of WIN House, says domestic violence is a sad reality that has not been decreasing in Edmonton.
“Women’s shelters across Alberta are turning away so many families, it’s almost hard to comprehend,” she says. “And a fifth of the victims live in our city.”
The need for Carol’s House is big, as women who come from other countries and cultures and experience domestic violence here are often unable to speak the language, secure a job, look after medical or legal needs, find affordable housing and even find the money to properly feed and clothe their children. These barriers actually keep many women in violent situations instead of leaving to seek help. It’s unfortunate that their bravery in leaving a home where there is emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse is often met with a door closed on them because there is not enough funding to go around.
Gordey believes the funding will go far in breaking down barriers to safety.
“I expect sustainable funding will continue to be a barrier in the future,” she says. “Shelters being at risk of closing their doors is not new, and it could happen to us again in the future. But in the meantime, we, and Carol’s House, will remain committed to increasing safety in our community for as long as possible.”
In addition to stays extended well past the 21-day maximum for most Alberta women’s shelters, Carol’s House provides culturally sensitive services and helps foreign-born women understand all the legalities and intricacies of living in Canada.
Gordey says that Edmonton police respond to as many as 10 000 domestic violence calls each year and half of the calls report there are children in the home.
“The race, the socioeconomic class and the educational backgrounds are diverse, but in any given classroom, one in seven children will have witnessed violence in their homes,” Gordey says.