YWCA shelters in the territories may soon see a revamp to staff training to account for challenges unique to the North.
“It’s hard to imagine, I think, for a lot of people, that you would be running the only residential resource for women in a remote community and there you are, and you’re presented with women who have trauma, who have mental health challenges, who have addictions, who have tough lives, and yet you don’t have a lot of support or backup in that. And how scary that would be. How challenging,” said Lyda Fuller, executive director of YWCA NWT.
YWCA staff training is currently based on a national curriculum. Northern shelters, however, particularly those in more remote communities, have fewer client resources at their disposal, Fuller explained.
Limited access to addictions or mental health services, for example, means that staff often have to fill in the gaps themselves, Fuller said.
YWCA NWT is looking for a contractor to create a Northern training plan.
In general, many of the skills necessary to be a successful shelter worker are not location specific. Among them, Fuller lists active listening skills and understanding trauma – “those things don’t change,” she said – but the territories need training that addresses the realities of service delivery in Northern or remote communities.
“We’re looking for somebody who understands curriculum development, understands the challenges of working in places where there isn’t a well-developed service sector, who can identify what’s out there and how it might be adapted to be more useful in the North,” Fuller said.
The position will be funded through a Rogers family donation to Women’s Shelters Canada. The YWCA is accepting the money on behalf of the territories and will use it for training revamp and implementation.
“There are lots of challenges,” Fuller said. “Once you’ve got the modules, how do they get delivered and how can we facilitate that?”
“How are we going to help the shelters access the training because not all the shelters even have computers.”
In the NWT there are currently two YWCA shelters, Alison McAteer House in Yellowknife and Sutherland House in Fort Smith. In Nunavut, there is YWCA Agvvik in Iqaluit.
A partial Northern curriculum was created – Fuller believes about 15 years ago – though it focuses primarily on shelter clients dealing with family violence. The new modules will update the training with circumstances relevant to current shelter needs, as well as create a more comprehensive plan.
The Rogers family donation follows the federal government’s February announcement to invest $1 million to the NWT YWCA. The investment was made to “increase women’s safety across the Northwest Territories,” by collaborating with community members, including clients of the shelter, and political leaders.
“It will work to ensure that survivors of gender-based violence in small communities can rely on timely, reliable, and trauma-informed services,” the press release said at the time of the announcement.
Fuller said the push for more comprehensive training and more resources is necessary and overdue.