Windsor Hiatus House, February 20, 2015. (Photo by Mike Vlasveld)

Women’s Shelter In Leamington Advances At A Critical Time

A proposal to build a shelter in Leamington for women trying to escape violence at home has reached the second stage in the provincial process.

Executive Director at Hiatus House, Thom Rolfe says the proposal was first submitted last April. Work is underway now to put together a strong business case, but the project could take at least three to five years to come to fruition.

“The province is saying there’s no money for operating more shelters,” Rolfe says. “There’s no money for capital at this point.”

In the meantime, the shelter in Windsor is both facing a severe financial crunch and is over capacity.

Rolfe says the current capacity issues started in May 2016, and so far this year, 118 women and 105 children have been turned away from Hiatus House.

“We still admit high-risk cases even if we don’t have a bed,” says Rolfe. “We will make sure that we transfer somebody to another shelter in another part of the province if we can’t accommodate them.”

(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / lucidwaters)

(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / lucidwaters)

He admits there is a risk for the women that are turned away.

“Our biggest concern is that she doesn’t share all of the information with us,” admits Rolfe. “So, we make a decision based on what we’ve got, and she could end up being seriously injured or killed.”

It has just 42 beds, and right now, there are 48 people seeking refuge there.

The new shelter in Leamington would have 40 beds, more than enough to bring the region on par with other communities.

“Windsor and Essex County is under-serviced in terms of the number of beds,” says Rolfe. “For us to just get at the same level that other communities in the southwest region are, we’d need another 36 beds.”

Complicating matters, Hiatus House has watched its costs grow by 20% since 2009, while funding has not kept pace.

“Given the pressures in terms of current funding, we might be in a position of having to reduce the number of beds we currently have because we don’t have enough funding to operate them,” Rolfe cautions. “In the face of the current crisis, that certainly wouldn’t be a good thing.”

Under the recently announced national housing strategy, the Trudeau government plans to open 7,000 new beds across the country. It calls for 25% of funding in the plan to go to services for women and calls on the provinces to match that money.