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Addressing Homelessness and Poverty

The Current Crisis of Community Care: A Burdensome Climate for VAW Services

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Inflation has increased the threat of homelessness for survivors of gender-based violence while community services remain scarce, and shelters are filling in the gaps and doing more with less.


The impact of inflation on survivors of gender-based violence

The threat of homelessness disproportionately impacts survivors of gender-based violence.

Survivors face the choice of living with their abuser or leaving a violent situation and becoming unhoused.

Inflation, financial uncertainty, job loss, burnout, and lack of safe community support all limit survivors’ choices of gender-based violence, while our shifting economic trends contribute to increased stress at home.

After choosing safety and security, leaving an abuser and entering a shelter, the following survival challenge is “where will I live?”

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We know because we’re at the frontlines of the housing crisis and can see daily the impact of the lack of affordable housing for survivors across the GTA. Almost all our clients, upon arrival, want to meet with the Transitional Support Worker to discuss housing for themselves and their families. And rightly so. While there is a provincial Affordable Housing Program that prioritizes housing for survivors, the application process is rigorous, complex, and requires immense staff support and expertise to navigate. The program also has fluctuating terms of availability and is limited in its offerings — especially for families.

Community resources in Toronto face an unprecedented demand

Even after securing housing for survivors, the need for services and supports from community organizations and resources persists. Community organizations and resources in Toronto are overburdened and stretched thin due to the pandemic and unable to keep up with the rise in the need for these programs and services. Everything from food banks, shelters, employment support, and financial aid, our entire social service sector is in the throes of unprecedented demand with no end. The limited availability of these community supports for survivors means that the onus has been put on Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters, such as North York Women’s Shelter, to fill in the gaps.

The VAW sector is left to fill the gaps in service

Our scope of care for survivors of gender-based violence has continued to evolve and expand since our inception in 1984; currently, as we navigate a global crisis, inflation, economic disruption, record-breaking job loss, stress, burnout, and the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence, the demand for services and supports has only become more expansive and more complex. We now provide food security post-transition, health care, educational support, counselling, legal, immigration, employment, and transition support in-house to fill in the gaps in services left by the lack of community support. Our staff is overburdened with the demand, and the financial cost only increases to provide the same level of programs and services each year.

Our staff is overburdened with the demand, and the financial cost only increases to provide the same level of programs and services each year.

As an organization whose mission and mandate are to provide emergency shelter to survivors of gender-based violence, how we have had to innovate and expand services to provide critical services to our clientele must be shared. We will continue to innovate and grow services to ensure that survivors have the support they need. However, what the community needs to understand is that the onus of this demand for help is being placed on VAW shelters such as North York Women’s Shelter.

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