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Shelter dreams

Partners seeking support, funding for shelter

It's a big dream - but they're determined to see it fulfilled.
Family Services - Partners Building Hope (Partners) has seen the need for a safe shelter in Humboldt through the work that they do, assisting people access a host of services, including help to escape domestic violence.
In 2010, they said, they saw a 40 per cent rise in their intake numbers, and domestic violence intakes increased as well over other years.
That trend continued in 2011. Since January, they reported, things have levelled out somewhat, but they still recorded two extremely busy months.
The fall season and around Christmas seem to be the peak time for family issues, noted Collette Lessmeister, Partners executive director, so they expect to see the numbers rise again in a few months.
There has also been an increase in homelessness in this region.
People keep it secret, Lessmeister noted - they spend time at the library, go to the Uniplex, and hang out at area restaurants.
If they were walking by you on the street, you would not identify them as a homeless youth or adult, they said.
Partners is providing youth who are homeless or hungry with advocacy and support. But they would also like to provide them with a place to live.
The increase in intakes at Partners has meant the organization has been on the phone more and more, trying to find safe shelter for those in need.
Right now, all the shelters in the province have waiting lists, Lessmeister indicated. It's really the luck of the draw to get someone in - if you happen to call at the right time, there may be an opening.
"They may get in - there's no guarantee," she said.
But they keep calling until they are able to find a place
"We call every shelter in Saskatchewan," Lessmeister said. "They could be going anywhere."
And it can be tricky, getting women escaping domestic violence to those safe places, noted Lessmeister and Pam Lemky, the Partners intake and program coordinator, as they need to keep everyone safe along the way.
The difficulty in finding places to go for people in need has led the organization to seriously look at the development of a safe shelter in this community, for people escaping domestic violence, and for those who are homeless and need a place to stay.
They are currently working on a plan to build a shelter with various government agencies and stakeholders.
What would this shelter look like?
In their dreams, it would be a facility where people can access a multitude of different things, Lemky noted. Services like financial assistance, Social Services, Mental Health, the food bank and Partners would all have a presence in the building - "every service we refer people to," she said.
Maybe there would even be a daycare within the building.
Another part of the building - an absolutely secure place - would house the shelter.
The shelter could also include transitional housing, to either help people trying to get back on their feet, or provide temporary housing for those who have found jobs but no homes in this community. These people just need somewhere to go until they can get a place to rent, Lemky said.
"It would be great to have all that there."
Together, the partners in the building could provide services that would create healthy families - things like childcare, parenting classes, self-esteem workshops - and provide a place for youth and youth programming - somewhere they feel comfortable coming for help.
"It would be great to have the option," Lessmeister said, of sending people to this local shelter. "It's disheartening to tell people we have no options for you - the shelters are full, we can give you a hotel room for one night, but there's nothing else available. That's just not okay."
Having other services inside the building would also allow those accessing the shelter a measure of anonymity, it was noted.
"No one would know why you were there," Lemky said.
That's important, because the majority of the time, it takes several tries before a person is successful in leaving a situation of domestic violence. Relationships of trust have to be built, she explained, as well as self-esteem, confidence and strength, and that takes time.
And there is usually a real grieving process a person has to go through, Lessmeister continued.
"It takes a lot to give up on the dream of a relationship," she said.
Services in one location would also make sense for those accessing the shelter, not just for anonymity, but so they would know how to address other issues in their lives.
Often, Lemky noted, those experiencing domestic violence also have mental health, addictions or food security issues. To have people to help them with those in the shelter facility "would be ideal," she said. "All the supports would be there. They just have to ask."
There is also definite need in Saskatchewan as a whole for housing for men leaving a domestic violence situation with their children.
There is no shelter in Saskatchewan where men can remain with their children in the same shelter.
Partners is currently working with the Ministries of Social Services and Justice to resolve that situation.
"It's important to keep families together," Lessmeister said. "If a man knows when he flees a domestic violence situation that he will be separated from his children, he won't feel safe and secure. That hinders men leaving domestic violence situations, and hinders them from coming forward," she noted.
Men and women would have to be separated in a shelter in Humboldt, as many who are escaping domestic violence have a definite fear of the opposite sex.
However, Lemky believes that having both sexes in the same facility could work well with programming surrounding building that trust back with the opposite sex.
A shelter in Humboldt for those who have experienced abuse would help them, Partners believes.
For those who have ties to the community which they feel they cannot break - work obligations, a social network - having a shelter within the community could convince them to leave a violent home when they otherwise would not.
"If they had an option in town, I think a lot would choose to stay on there," Lessmeister said.
It would make it easier on the children in those families as well, Lessmeister continued, because they would not have to be uprooted.
"That plays big on a parent's heart," she noted.
Other people do feel safer the farther they are from the home in which they suffered, so they may not use a local shelter. However, with spaces here, it could free up room at shelters around the province.
"If we had a shelter here, it would help people across Saskatchewan," Lessmeister said. Those who would not feel comfortable at a shelter here, could go to one in Saskatoon, and vice versa.
"Some people may think having a local shelter is not a good idea, but women in Saskatoon stay at a shelter in Saskatoon," Lessmeister said, and they are not approached by their abusers.
"Often, an abusive spouse wants to be seen as a good, upstanding person," she explained. They only show their abusive side to those in the home.
A shelter, they believe, will also create awareness in the community about abuse in all its shapes and forms, and show people that it occurs to those in all economic backgrounds, and that it is real and happening in this community.
Unfortunately, though the issues and the population of this area has increased, the resources are not catching up.
Building a shelter will take huge community support, buy-in from the government of Saskatchewan, and funding from every source they can find, to staff the facility and ensure it is safe and secure.
"That costs money," Lessmeister said.
While they work on getting that money and support together, Partners has installed a security system at their offices and are now looking at starting a support group for survivors of domestic violence, both adults and children.