Describe your workshop/presentation (300-500 words):
Women's Habitat opened its doors to women and children fleeing violence in 1978. As was the case in 1978, the barriers for women to leave an abusive relationship were many. In 1978, in Canada, the law did not recognize family violence as a crime, the services that were available often did not understand the impact of violence on women and children and most importantly, family violence was seen and continues to be seen as a private matter.
In 2014, Women's Habitat undertook a full scale renovation of the shelter. We took this opportunity to engage in a comprehensive review of our programs, policies and procedures. We interviewed women who had lived in our shelter for their suggestions, input and honest feedback. Women often spoke about feeling judged by staff, favoritism , feeling rules were restrictive and punitive.
This journey enabled us to work from a trauma informed/harm reduction framework. In this workshop, we will describe the process, the challenges and the success of embracing these approaches. We will provide concrete suggestions and tools as speak to the limits that many shelters face.
As we continue to improve our services and programs, we ask ourselves: what else can and do we need to do? ; who have we not serviced or supported? what other barriers and accessibility services must we tackle next?
To this end, Women's Habitat has partnered with a violence prevention agency to participate in a project , " Improving Pathways to safety for 2SLGBTQ+ Communities Project". This initiative involves an audit and training program aimed at evaluating the breath and inclusivity of our services to support 2SLGBTQ communities. The findings of this audit will be completed by Spring 2019 and we will share the results at this conference.
The current challenges the Violence Against Women(VAW) face, paint a grim picture of what is to come as we work towards ending gender based violence. Poverty continues to be a critical factor holding women back and increasing their vulnerability to violence. As our cities and community become more expensive , women struggle to support themselves and their children. Lack of affordable housing in large cities in Canada has created yet another barrier for women and as a result our shelter continues to be full of survivors who can not move forward to the next stage of their healing. Shelters length of stays are extended past a year which means that women seeking refugee in shelters continue to live in violent relationships due to lack of space in VAW shelters. As governments lag on their responsibilities to address this critical housing issue, the VAW sector finds itself having to engage in more actively in advocacy efforts to change the status quo, seek and find creative solutions to continue to support survivors and their children. It has been a balancing act in which VAW organizations find themselves pulled from attending the ever growing complex needs of clients and advocating for systematic change to ensure that they meet their mandates, vision and missions to help eradicate violence against women and children.
Carla Neto has a Bachelor of Social Work from Ryerson University and is currently a candidate for a Masters of International Business Administration with the Westford School of Management, Dubai (UAE) focusing on Leadership and Management. Carla is currently working on her dissertation which will look at Leadership and Change Management. Carla has 25 years of work experience working in Violence Against Women (VAW) shelter sector with diverse and marginalized families. Her work with women and children spans across front-line work and management. Carla is manager of Community Programs at Women's Habitat since 2018.
Silvia Samsa has worked in the non for profit sector for almost thirty years. She started her career at Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter as a child advocate. At YWCA Toronto, she was the manager of the Arise shelter. As a consultant for YWCA Canada, she worked with shelter staff in Iqaluit to incorporate trauma informed practices. She has presented at various Violence Against Women conferences throughout North America. Silvia has a BA from the University of Toronto and a BSW from Ryerson.
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