Thanks to a newly launched emergency support fund, victims of intimate partner and domestic violence in Westman and across Canada have more resources than ever to help them on the road to healing.
Last week, YWCA Canada and its member associations launched the first national emergency support fund for survivors of intimate partner violence. The fund provides women, gender-diverse people and their families experiencing such violence, and current residents of emergency shelters, with immediate financial support to escape abusive situations and begin healing.
Raine Liliefeldt, the interim chief executive officer and director of member services at YWCA Canada, said the fund was the No. 1 demand voiced by women and gender-diverse people experiencing domestic violence.
"Until this urgent and unmet need is addressed by government, YWCA Canada is taking action to help survivors escape violence and rebuild their lives," Liliefeldt said.
According to Statistics Canada, a woman is killed every six days on a national scale. Every night, around 6,000 women and children sleep in a shelter because their home is not a safe place. The numbers, drawn from findings in 2019 and 2014, have been on the rise since the pandemic began.
Liliefeldt said there is currently a gap in support and services for survivors urgently feeling unsafe situations of living in emergency shelters.
"A lack of financial resources is one of the most common reasons survivors stay in abusive situations," she said. "Without help, survivors have few options available to them to protect themselves and their families."
Liliefeldt added that for survivors who stay at shelters, a lack of financial resources means their ability to start over is at risk, which in turn lengthens their stay. As a result, many shelters do not have enough space and are forced to turn survivors and their children away.
Heather Symbalisty, executive director of the YWCA’s Westman Women’s Shelter in Brandon, said that the fund will help survivors of domestic violence in Westman leave their current abusive living situations and create a healthier living environment for themselves and their families. Survivors are often concerned about how they’re going to provide for themselves on a day-to-day basis as well as how they will make plans for the future. With help from the newly announced fund, Symbalisty said they will be able to map out their futures, including focusing on healing and breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
Thanks to the fund, shelters will be able to help survivors shift the focus from financial worries to receiving counselling, getting help setting up budgets and securing further financial support, including housing.
"Instead of always having those financial worries that they face … we’re looking at all areas of being able to provide support," Symbalisty said. "We’ll be able to extend that financial peace to help better support them as they’re leaving."
The YWCA’s fund will provide immediate financial support to help survivors with urgent expenses, including housing, utilities, storage fees, furniture, moving and travel expenses. Survivors will also be connected to wrap-around transition services, including counselling, and connections to health care, employment and legal assistance as needed.
The national emergency survivor support fund is made possible through the YWCA’s founding partner, the Slaight Family Foundation. The funding will allow the organization to distribute 1,500 grants over four years, with 375 of them being distributed to survivors in 2022. The organization also acknowledges support from Aviva Canada and the Torrid Foundation.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun