Representation from the community and local agencies were on hand to hear that domestic violence and services for those in need are not simply limited to more urban areas.
The presentation from the Camrose Women’s Shelter Society (CWSS) took place at the Happy Gang Centre on May 29 with a focus on ensuring Bashaw and area know what programming and services are available for women and families that are in crisis.
Nora-Lee Rear, CWSS executive director, explained the society operates 24/7 crisis line along with a 22-bed emergency residential shelter in Camrose in addition to an outreach program and family support programming.
The shelter is for “women and those with children in order to provide them with time to figure out what their next steps will be,” Rear said.
“It is usually a crisis that has brought them in, whether it’s an incident of domestic violence or abuse.
“Our three key priorities are women and children fleeing abuse or domestic violence and those that are homeless or on the verge of homelessness. We’ve found 90 to 95 per cent of women that are homeless is because of domestic violence.”
The longest stay at the shelter is 21 days, which Rear admitted isn’t that long. Though with just 22 beds, the number of beds for single women is limited and families are kept in one bedroom.
Part of helping these women and families includes supporting them in trying to get back to a life that is more normal, even though most come in with little-to-no belongings and some missing identification.
“It either gets left behind, stolen or that, so we are there to help pick up the pieces,” said Rear.
From getting new health care cards or a driver’s licence to getting them through the process of finding replacement income, CWSS has a number of ways to help the women feel like they are getting back on their own feet.
“Getting them some kind of income at least in the interim, be it government assistance or child tax credit or a new job — that is often the one of the most important things to do when someone comes to the shelter,” Rear added.
Once they have an income, the transition to other housing can begin — either a private rental or a second-stage shelter in a larger centre where they can live for up to 12 months.
The shelter also provides support services including a licensed daycare and a teacher that will instruct children from Grades 1 to 12.
“We are just one of four shelters to have its own school teacher, something we are very fortunate to have,” Rear said.
“There is also support to help the kids that may be struggling to understand what is going on plus programming to help parents with issues they are facing as they raise their children and providing children activities to occupy them.
“Often, children in this situation face trauma from what had gone on in the home to moving to some strange new place they are not familiar with. The teacher we have is trained in building relationships with the kids and that’s a lot of what he does. It’s not so much about school work, but helping them get through their stay.”
The presentation also included some informative descriptions on what domestic violence is, how to recognize it, how to provide some help when someone reaches out and just how the CWSS outreach program helps with that.
CWSS community outreach worker Helen Samm explained her job is to assist women with their transition from the shelter and back into the community, but also is there to help those that may not want to come to the shelter and ones that need some assistance in understanding just what is going on.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. It can happen to anyone,” Samm said.
“It tears at the fabric of a community by dismantling family units and causing a ripple effect of repercussions that can be felt for many years.”
So, Samm’s job is essentially to support women in ensuring they learn how to live without that relationship and do things they weren’t allowed to do.
“Often, they have lost their identity and how to live on their own, sometimes not knowing how to cook or have ever had a job,” she said, adding it can take years for someone to break through those barriers.
CWSS also accepts donations of various items and those wishing to help with that can call the office at (780) 679-4975.
For anyone that feels they need support or to access the shelter, they should contact the CWSS crisis line toll free at 1-877-672-1010.