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YWCA Canada Calls for Coordination on Violence Against Women

Life Beyond Shelter Report recommends government cooperation at all levels

13 October 2009

A new report by YWCA Canada, the country’s largest provider of shelter for women, calls on all three levels of government to coordinate policies on violence against women. Life Beyond Shelter, released today by YWCAs across the country, points to the causal connection between domestic violence and women’s homelessness, highlighting poverty, housing, the legal environment, life in the North and the exclusion of marginalized women as critical barriers for women seeking to move beyond violence.

“Over 100,000 women and children enter shelters in Canada annually,” says Paulette Senior, CEO of YWCA Canada. “They leave their homes, communities and jobs in a courageous effort to build a new life. And what happens once they leave the shelter? It’s a long story of poverty, a struggle to provide for their children, and constant risk of homelessness. It doesn’t have to be this way. This report is a game plan for change with a very clear message.”

Life Beyond Shelter cites the implementation of coordinated policies at all three levels of government and across parallel jurisdictions as the only possibility for an effective national response. Policies must recognize the realities and vulnerabilities of women in Canada’s north, and address the needs of Aboriginal women nationwide.

“Women and children need to live safely beyond shelter, with dignity, without fear of stalking, abuse and homelessness,” says principal report researcher and family law expert Pamela Cross, “to achieve that, it is absolutely necessary for people at every level of government to collaborate.”

“Shelters are the first and most immediate line of defence, but shelter is not a permanent solution,” says Ann Decter, YWCA Canada’s Director of Advocacy and Public Policy. “We need to stop violence before it starts, the same way we take the keys out of the hands of a driver who’s been drinking. We need a broad change in attitude. Tens of thousands of women and children should not be forced into shelter each year.”

“All Canadians have a right to be safely housed,” says Heather McGregor, CEO of YWCA Toronto, which is bringing new affordable housing units to downtown Toronto through the Elm Centre project. “Women need safe, long-term housing they can afford. Social assistance levels are well below the poverty line, keeping women and children in deep poverty. It’s time to bring all the issues together in a national discussion.”

The culmination of years of research, the report’s recommendations include implementing women’s advocates to guide at-risk women through services and systems, expanding violence awareness and prevention and mandatory professional education on violence against women across a broad range of professions.

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