The Stepping Stones Crisis Society’s new building is 20 percent complete. / Photo courtesy Stepping StonesChantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The funding will help improve the shelters operational capacity and expand support services for women and children escaping domestic violence. 

Teresa Green, Executive Director of the Capella Centre in St. Paul, recently spoke about how the new funding will impact the shelter.  

According to Green, “These additional funds will provide operational funding for an additional four beds within the shelter. The annual funding received to date recognized 20 beds, not the 24 beds that are being utilized.”  

The shelter received $184,163 in additional funding to support its operations.  

“The additional funding will allow us to enhance our responsive support services, both within the shelter and the community by hiring additional staff to provide outreach, advocacy, one-to-one support and to provide groups to the women and their children who we serve.” 

Green also emphasized the need for specialized programming, stating, “This funding will provide us with the opportunity to develop more specialized programming to meet the unique needs of the women, youth, and children who have been impacted by domestic violence. We are also in the process of developing outreach initiatives to help raise awareness about domestic violence and the many challenges faced by women living in rural areas such as isolation, limited transportation options, limited affordable housing options, and limited resources.”  

Green added that sustainable funding is crucial for women’s shelters. 

“Any time that a woman is turned away because of a lack of bed space is a tragedy. Sustainable funding, increasing capacity to accommodate more women and their families, and to have the capability to provide specialized programming will always be a challenge as the need seems to increase, not decrease, during these challenging times.” 

Stepping Stones 

Cindy Yang, Director of Strategic Priorities at Stepping Stones Crisis Society in Cold Lake, expressed her excitement about the government’s funding commitment.  

“We’re thrilled to see the Alberta government delivering on its funding commitment with this significant contribution upfront,” she said. Yang noted that the lack of operational funding increases for nine years had placed a burden on fundraising efforts to help cover operational costs. The additional funds will relieve this pressure and allow the shelter to focus on supporting women and children who have fled violence. 

Yang acknowledged the recent funding increase from the Alberta government with a mix of gratitude and cautious optimism. Stepping Stones currently receives three per-cent of its core operational funding from the government, allocated based on the number of beds provided. However, Yang noted that the society often provides more beds than the funding covers. This recent funding boost aims to address that gap. 

“We are really grateful for the increase in funding,” Yang said, “But unfortunately, this is catch-up funding. Though we are hopeful that this is the start of continuing support.” 

The government announced an additional $10 million in funding for shelters, distributed over the next several years, which includes $5 million in 2023-24, $1.5 million in 2024-25, $1.5 million in 2025-26, and $2 million in 2026-27.  

Yang did express concern about the sustainability of the funding. “What we’re really hoping for is an extension of this, because our understanding right now is that this is a one-time funding. So we’re only going to get funding for those beds for this year. Next year, it may go back to having unfunded beds.” 

Despite these concerns, Yang wanted to emphasize her gratitude. “We just want to be really transparent because we are so grateful. You know, one year of funding is still one year of funding. We just really hope it continues.” 

Yang highlighted the flexibility this funding provides for rural shelters, allowing them to adapt programs to meet the unique needs of their communities.  

“Rural communities certainly need different supports than urban centres. We’re thrilled that the government is recognizing the differences between the two communities and removing some red tape to allow for this to happen,” she stated. 

With the construction of a new building underway in Cold Lake, Yang said the Stepping Stones construction project is about 20 per cent completed, with plans taking shape to expand the emergency shelter, transitional housing, and auxiliary programs like pet housing and community kitchens.  

Expansions will enable the shelter to better support the continuum of care for clients and the wider community. 

By Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 06, 2024 at 09:40

This item reprinted with permission from   Lakeland This Week   Bonnyville, Alberta

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