YWCA receives provincial funding

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Banff YWCA has received a second round of provincial funding for its ongoing work on developing a community response plan to address sexual violence against women in the Bow Valley.

The YWCA last week received a $121,000 provincial grant to create a community response plan to address sexual assault that will include a full range of services from awareness, prevention and education through to direct, free counselling and crisis support.

Working with the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, the Y as begun reaching out to community partners to create an action plan that addresses the unique demographic of young adults, transient and short-term foreign workers in the Bow Valley corridor.

“We want to provide the full continuum of services from awareness and prevention to education counselling and crisis support,” said Connie MacDonald, chief executive officer of the Banff YWCA.

The $121,000 for the YWCA is part of $3.5 million in one-time funding announced by the provincial government last week to support programs that protect women and girls, Indigenous, immigrant and rural communities, as well as programs targeted at men and boys.

Last year, the Y also received $121,000 for the program.

The Y has hired a coordinator and is conducting a community assessment of resources, expertise and partnerships which will be followed up with development of a strategic framework and plan for a service model of delivery in the Bow Valley.

“Our project started in January and our new coordinator has been reaching out to various agencies in the Bow Valley from Lake Louise to Exshaw, collecting information, and trying to identify where the gaps are in the community,” said MacDonald.

In Alberta, 58 per cent of women report they have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical assault since the age of 16.

However, statistics show that only six per cent of women ever report their sexual assault to the police. The other 94 per cent struggle silently to cope with the long-term effects.

“Sexualized violence is a problem everywhere,” said MacDonald. “This is really about being proactive in how we respond.”

Meanwhile, Banff YWCA has received $183,000 as part of the provincial government’s $15 million announced last year for shelters and transition housing, and with this new money, the Y is hiring a new employee to further support the Y’s outreach programs.

That provincial funding aims to ensure a broader range of supports are available throughout Alberta to women and children escaping violent homes, including counseling and assistance in finding new housing or accessing financial assistance.

The Y has several outreach programs, including counseling and programming, including counseling support for women who may not have come to the women’s shelter but are dealing with domestic abuse.

“Currently, we have two full time employees working in that area and a third person will help us provide more services throughout the Bow Valley, “ said MacDonald. “I anticipate it will help our ability to provide services in Canmore.”

Banff’s YWCA continues to work on its plans for a new dedicated shelter and transition housing.

The current Bow Valley women’s emergency shelter has only one dedicated space for women and their children fleeing violent situations, and offers no access to transition housing for women who need a place to stay after leaving the shelter.

Current services include safety planning, referrals, counselling, access to food, clothing and transportation and, if necessary, a safe place for women and their children trying to escape violence.

MacDonald said the needs assessment is almost complete and is currently being reviewed by several agencies and groups.

“We’ve been looking at other shelters and trying to put some plans around what it looks like for the Bow Valley,” she said.

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