The Government of Alberta has funded the creation of 40 new women-only emergency shelter spaces in Calgary’s Beltline, addressing an at-capacity situation for women-only spaces in the city.
The announcement in Calgary followed a similar one made in Edmonton, which created 100 new spaces in that city, which has typically been at capacity for women only and mixed-gender spaces.
The new spaces will be operated by The Mustard Seed out of the former Beltline location for Inn From The Cold.
“We have challenged organizations like the Mustard Seed to come up with unique ways of providing shelter, particularly for Indigenous peoples and for women,” said Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services.
Samantha Lowe, senior director for Shelter Operations at the Mustard Seed, said that the organization has seen a significant increase in the number of women seeking shelter—including women coming to Calgary from other provinces.
“There’s been an astonishing 50 per cent increase in women accessing our shelter within the past year. This surge underscores the urgent necessity for women only shelter,” she said.
“Our new 24/7 Shelter is poised to provide women’s specific services thoughtfully designed to cater to the unique needs of this demographic. From helping with system navigation, to offering housing case management and counseling. We are committed to providing comprehensive wraparound supports to these women.”
The Government of Alberta provided approximately $100,000 for work to prepare the former Inn From The Cold building for shelter use, and is providing $750,000 for operational costs.
Giving women a safe space
Minister Nixon said that across the province, the government was hearing from unhoused individuals and from service providers that there was an increased need to provide safe shelter space for women.
"I don't want to confuse it with the important issue of domestic violence shelters, which is very important... but we want to make sure that we're creating spaces that women feel safe at but also can get access to different types of wraparound services that you may not see as a major focus in size at some of the larger shelters, which are still predominantly male."
Stephen Wile, CEO of the Mustard Seed, said that their 370 mixed gender shelter was frequently at capacity—which was a first for the Mustard Seed through the summer months.
"Typically we would have maybe 250 to 275 on average in the summer, and we were over 370 and we're turning away anywhere between between 10 and 30 people a night,” he said.
"Because it is a mixed shelter our expectation is that some of the some women who use that shelter on a daily basis will likely transfer to this shelter, and it will also provide opportunity for us to have a little more capacity in the Foothills shelter."