This is a re-post from the YWCA Calgary blog.
Thanks to your generous support at our 2013 Calgary Breakfast, we were able to provide funding to support YWCA Calgary in their flood recovery efforts. Below is a powerful story of a Calgary woman affected by the June floods.
*Beth has a good job. She works as a sales person at a local clothing store. She helps others find beautiful things and makes them feel special.
She is elegant and intelligent.
Less than two months ago, she was also homeless.
Each night, starting in mid-November, Beth would arrive at the door of the YWCA Winter Emergency Response shelter to find a safe place to sleep. Since Nov. 12, 2013, the YWCA has provided emergency shelter in a portion of our former gymnasium for approximately 36 homeless women each night.
Beth is a victim of the devastating floods that affected so many in Calgary this past summer. She lost everything – her home, her clothes, her memories and her ability to house herself.
Imagine being a woman, who is dressing up each day to go to work and had previously enjoyed the privacy and confidence of her own home, sleeping on a cot on a painted cement floor with up to 45 other women. Many of who are no stranger to homelessness, addiction and mental health challenges.
The environment quickly began to take an emotional toll on Beth and it was into the second week that shelter staff found her parked in the YWCA parking lot, crying in the front seat of her car, as she waited for the shelter to open for the night.
Working with intake staff at the YWCA, in a matter of days, Beth found a more comfortable and stable living arrangement at YWCA Mary Dover House supportive housing.
Now she has somewhere to hang her work clothes at night; somewhere to close a door and find some quiet and somewhere to cook her own meals. It might not be a home of her own, but it is one step closer to getting there again.
*Name has been changed.
Affordable housing is key for vulnerable women
For many women like Beth, who are working in low wage or unstable jobs, or subsisting on social assistance, a clean, safe apartment in Calgary costs two or three times what they have the means to pay.
To make matters worse, the June floods put increased pressure on the city’s already tight rental market. Vulnerable women hoping to find permanent housing were forced to compete with displaced Calgarians in a city with a low vacancy rate and limited affordable housing.
According to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Calgary is the epicentre of homelessness in Alberta, thanks to a strong labour market and limited low-cost rental housing. 63 per cent of all shelter users in Alberta are in Calgary, compared with 28 per cent in Edmonton.
Over the past five years, the length of stay in both the YWCA Sheriff King Home shelter (for women fleeing family violence) and YWCA Mary Dover House (for women experiencing poverty and homelessness) has been stretching ever longer.
Every time we are forced to turn away a woman and her children we are afraid of where they will end up. Will they sleep on the streets tonight? Will they have to return home to an abusive partner? Will they spend a sleepless night in fear?
Affordable housing is crucial in allowing women and their families, to break the cycles of poverty and homelessness and thrive in a safe and equitable community.