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YWCA Lethbridge one step closer to doubling bed capacity of women's shelter

The YWCA Lethbridge building is seen in this image. The YWCA Lethbridge building is seen in this image.

Lethbridge’s only women’s emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence is one step closer to doubling its current bed capacity.

On Jan. 23, city council voted to relocate $202,483.80 of leftover funds previously given to the YWCA Lethbridge and District to convert its third floor into more units for those fleeing domestic violence.

“Our demand in southern Alberta for emergency domestic violence shelters is absolutely at its peak,” said Jill Young, CEO of the YWCA.

Currently, the YWCA offers 24 beds, but with the allocated funding, the organization will operate 50 beds.

The money will be used for the renovation portion of the upgrade. However, the YWCA is still waiting for funding from the Alberta government to operate the added space.

“We have transitioned out one of our programs, which was our women's residence program, and that has allowed us to have some additional space in our YWCA main building to allow for the Harbour House expansion,” Young explained.

The additional spaces come at a pivotal time. In November, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters says between April 2022 and April 2023, domestic violence was at a 10-year high, with more than 59,000 calls for help answered by women’s shelters in Alberta.

Young says there have been several thousand calls to the YWCA, with nearly 700 being turned away due to a lack of available space.

At the time, she said over a three-year period, the YWCA has seen a more than 200 per cent increase in women and children accessing their services.

Young adds once they’re able to secure the provincial funding, that money will be used to hire and support the staff helping operate the new beds.

“We’re more than doubling our space our capacity, which means we're going to need a significant more amount of staff to help support this need,” Young said.

“Our Harbour House operation is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and we also have a 24-hour crisis line that we need to have monitored every single day.”

The renovations are anticipated to be complete by April. There is no firm timeline for the province’s response to funding.

“But, we also know that these improvements take time and we're looking at what we can do for a long-term phased approach over the next 18 to 24 months,” said Young, adding she hopes the resolution passed by city council will be another sign to show the importance of the ask for funding. Top Stories

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