YWCA NWT has a windfall of roughly $1 million in federal funding to pilot a new gender violence support project.
The program, which was announced in a press conference with NWT MP Michael McLeod Friday afternoon, will run over the course of five years. In that time, YWCA NWT will test various safe home models in small communities across the territory.
“We’ve known for many years that women have asked for safe homes and other resources in their communities,” YWCA executive director Lyda Fuller said at the press conference, noting the project would prioritize consulting with women in smaller communities.
As opposed to more formal services like a shelter, a safe home is an identified space in a community that may only be staffed when needed. It can be a house, a public space like a nursing station, or in one case a tent out on the land, Fuller said.
“It’s just a place for women to get away and have respite for a while, she said.
Status of Women Council NWT and YWCA NWT research both revealed the need to establish safe homes as a potential response to gendered violence in small communities, Fuller said.
“(Women) often have had to come out to shelters. That can be difficult and require travel and time that takes away from their safety,” she said, noting a safe home offers an alternative with fewer barriers.
Safe spaces offered under the program have never been tested in the NWT, with shelters often concentrated in larger centres, Fuller said.
The program targets three regions without shelters: the Deh Cho, the Sahtu and Tlicho. The project hasn’t settled on identified individual communities. Fuller said further consultation will develop more specific measures.
That said, previous work with YWCA has already produced suggestions, Fuller said. She also pointed to similar work in rural northern communities in British Columbia that could inform the program.
In the NWT, one thing Fuller hopes to test is how the program works in communities with and without an RCMP presence.
In his comments, McLeod also identified smaller communities as a key issue.
To fully address gender based violence, "we will need sustainable funding that addresses gaps and supports everyone, including underserved groups in rural and remote regions of Canada," McLeod said at the press conference.
Fuller, who’s preparing to retire, said the funding was an encouraging step. YWCA previously worked on women’s safety in smaller communities from 2006 and 2010, she said, and found during this time "that work needed to continue."
Fuller said calls for safe homes have been longstanding.
"It’s something we’ve wanted to test for a number of years because women keep bringing it up,” Fuller continued. “I’m sure that I will either be involved or hear about, one way or the other, after I retire.”