Picture this. A woman here in Calgary is in a violent and abusive relationship. Tired of the abuse and fearful for her and her children’s safety and well-being, she makes the choice to leave and enters into a local women’s shelter. From there she has only a few weeks before her shelter stay is up to find a safe and stable place to live for herself and her children. The stress and pressure builds. Rents are high and her income is low. Second stage shelter units are scarce because of demand. She is unsure of her options. She would rather go back than risk being homeless with her kids. Their lives have been disrupted enough. A decision that seemed easy a few weeks ago is harder to rationalize.
Every day too many women who make the choice to leave situations of family violence find themselves on the precipice of becoming homeless in their attempts to leave for safety. As such, these women are not only in need of support to address the issues that result from domestic violence but also access to safe and affordable long term housing. Mounting research in Canada has confirmed that family violence is one of the main causes of homelessness among families. Family violence leads to relationship breakdowns, evictions, financial stress and too often the result can be a family without a place to call home. We believe that all individuals have a right to housing because we know that stability in housing often leads to enhanced functioning in other critical life areas. However, housing alone does not address the myriad of issues that comes with the experience of domestic violence.
Our goal here at Discovery House is to end homelessness for victims of domestic violence by providing options for housing with a focus on support, safety and sustainability.
In order to achieve this goal, last year Discovery House established the Community Housing Program (CHP) that offers intensive case management and mental health support for at-risk families. As a part of Calgary’s innovative 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness the CHP moves women and children from domestic violence emergency shelters and into their own homes in the community with support services. We are known to be one of its first of kind programs in Canada. CHP works in close collaboration with a comprehensive housing initiative, known as the CUPS Rapid Exit Program.
Since February 2009 we have housed and supported over 100 women and 260 children in the community. We have been able to provide services to women and children in a way that meets the needs of women and children who have experienced domestic violence and who are facing homelessness. This week here in Calgary (September 20 – 24, 2010) it is Homeless Awareness Week. Don’t you agree that every family deserves a place to call home?
By: Heather Morley