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Bow Valley's Songs For Shelter returns to support YWCA Banff

Since 2020, crisis calls to the YWCA Banff increased by a startling 250 per cent.

BOW VALLEY – As crisis calls skyrocketed to the YWCA Banff over the past three years, it’s more important than ever for women and children fleeing domestic violence and abuse to know options exist within the Bow Valley.

Songs For Shelter, a night of songs and storytelling this Friday evening (April 28), has a mission to raise awareness and funds for such services and programming for those in need.

“People have come up to me and said, ‘I didn’t even know there was a [women’s] shelter in the Bow Valley, I didn’t know it was necessary,’” said Mike Petroff, Songs For Shelter organizer and local folk musician. “The money helps, it’s nice, but it’s the people and awareness, which is huge for us. I find that is the key element.”

Since 2020, crisis calls to the YWCA Banff increased by a startling 250 per cent.

In 2021-22, a total of 669 shelter nights were taken by community members experiencing violence, and 739 bed nights to individuals and families experiencing homelessness or precarious housing.

Ebony Rempel, CEO of YWCA Banff, said the increase in crisis calls isn’t unique to the Bow Valley. And while locally, calls have levelled off in the past year, the YWCA Banff is continually experiencing a massive increase than pre-pandemic.

“One of the things we’re starting to track this year is trying to get a better understanding of what our turn away numbers are because we are full and having to do a lot of work with folks calling for support, often needing a temporary place to stay, and not having space available for them,” said Rempel.

“We’re doing a lot of work with people who don’t necessarily enter into our program because we don’t have the space for them and we’re doing that through our crisis line.”

Since 2016, Songs For Shelters has raised $24,700 toward the Bow Valley Women’s Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing in Banff, which is up and running.

Now the focus shifted toward the Bow Valley Higher Ground Project, which plans to bring a new facility to Canmore that offers a range of services from shelter to affordable housing to addressing domestic and sexual violence.

“I think one of the things that is less well understood in the community is that sheltering is a really important component to the work that we do, and ensuring that families and those who have experienced violence, have a safe space to go to, but for us … Higher Ground is larger than just sheltering,” said Rempel. “It’s about a space for folks to have extended periods and permanent periods of safety, not just for temporary refuge.”

Rempel added the YWCA is in discussions with the municipality and local affordable housing organizations about potential space for Higher Ground.

The 2023 Songs For Shelter is the sixth edition of the local fundraiser taking place at the Canmore Golf and Curling Club, with proceeds benefitting the YWCA Banff and its goal to build a new facility in Canmore.

The night features speakers, stories, and the tunes of local musicians Pat “Sully” Sullivan, Gord March, and Mike Petroff.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and music starts at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $20, which can be found at March's Floor Covering West in Canmore or online here. (for paper) at

“Folk music was meant to send stories and messages and observations and comments so, old folk music does that,” said Petroff. “So songs will be based on that with a message and trying not to be too negative with what’s going on in the uncertain world, but just in a positive note and try to get people back together.”

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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