Kelowna Women's Shelter

July 2, 2020

Earlier this year, our family foundation began a collaboration with the Kelowna Women's Shelter in order to support the vital services they offer to vulnerable people in our community. Recently, they were kind enough to share some details about the type of services they provide. We are beyond proud to be working with them and thought we'd share that info with you. Understanding the incredible resources there are in our community for people dealing with tremendously difficult circumstances is both inspiring and sobering. We hope it helps educate those in our community of the incredible work they do, but perhaps even stir up support (whatever that may look like to you) for this tremendous charity and organization within the Kelowna community. 

The Kelowna Women's Shelter

2020 marks the 40th year the Kelowna Women’s Shelter has been operating in Kelowna. Over those 40 years, we have provided critical services for the women and children in our community experiencing domestic abuse and violence including essential housing, supplies, programming, and support services. Despite ongoing efforts to end the cycle of violence against women, there are still many barriers and struggles in accessing services and your help is needed now more than ever…

Mission and Service Approach:

In addition to providing physical safety and security through our shelter, we offer 24/7 access to counsellors, outreach services for women who cannot/do not want to reside in the shelter, connections with appropriate support organizations, programs for children who have witnessed abuse, and a variety of sessions and workshops for women to share their story and methodically work through emotions and psychological traumas. All staff, programs, and services are updated regularly through research and trainings in order to ensure the most accurate and up-to-date service is provided to all.

Regardless of which service or program is accessed, a key component to the success of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter services lies in the client-centric approach, providing all residents and women in need with the help and support they are seeking whilst ensuring their perspectives, wishes, and preferences are held first and foremost. In order to ensure accessibility is not an additional barrier, these staff are available both on and off-site, by telephone, in person, at the Shelter, in a community setting or, if it is safe to do so, in their own homes. All Kelowna Women’s Shelter services and programs are provided free of charge and are accessible 24/7.

The Kelowna Women’s Shelter’s primary focus is to overcome any challenges and barriers that may stand in the way of accessing our services. By providing free, unlimited, easily accessible, and 24/7 service, we are reducing barriers to women and children seeking help. In addition, the variety and depth provided in both the delivery methods and informational content and support ensures that we are not just providing band-aid solutions to situations of domestic violence, but rather ending the cycle of abuse from continuing. Our efforts focus on changing the life experience of those who have been victims of or have witnessed abuse so that they go on to shape a different future as healthy, confident, and empowered members of our community. 

The Cause:

Being a victim of domestic abuse and violence can be isolating, confusing, overwhelming, and highly damaging and painful for everyone involved. Increasingly, the barriers faced by women accessing our services has become more complex and widespread in recent years. In addition to the lack of safety and security, psychological, mental, and physical trauma and damage, financial control and manipulation, and custody and legal navigation, women are also more increasingly experiencing gender/sexual identity challenges, addictions, undiagnosed brain trauma, and systemic issues in accessing appropriate services. In addition, there are huge individual and societal costs created by family violence and abuse due to deterioration in emotional and physical health, health care costs, financial repercussions, decreased engagement in the work force, etc.; costs that increase the longer the woman and her children remain in the abusive situation. 

Domestic abuse and violence against women does not discriminate. It affects regardless of nationality, race, culture, social class, gender and sexual identity, mental or physical health diagnosis, or disability. Because of this, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter’s guiding principles ensures that our services are accessible to all women and children in need. 

Women who access shelter services often face obstacles that they see as overwhelming or insurmountable as they attempt to leave a relationship and establish safety for themselves and their children. Without ongoing support, women can feel compelled to remain with or return to the abusive partner or situation. Although we ensure that the clients are not pressured into accessing any supports they are not ready for, the primary objective of our services and programs is to reduce any barriers we can, starting with our own internal capacity, by assisting women on an individual basis and providing customized supports.

Sobering Stats:

The statistics are always there: 6000 women and children seek shelter services each night in Canada. Over 1 in 3 women experience intimate partner violence. And every 2.5 days in Canada, a woman or girl is killed at the hands of her intimate partner. This is the realty of the work we do when there is not a pandemic to worsen these facts.

The increased need for shelter services is visible in our practice as well: 280 women and children were housed by Kelowna Women’s Shelter in 2019 in comparison to 240 the year prior, despite having the same number of only 16 core beds available. In addition to the women seeking shelter, the counselling team answered 670 crisis and counselling calls and conducted over 1,100 individuals and group counselling sessions, both on and off-site. We anticipate to surpass these numbers yet again in our 2020/21 year.

Effects of COVID-19:

Although we know that COVID-19 didn’t create domestic violence, there has been increased risk to women and children because of it. Every week there is new information continuously being released through studies and statistical reports highlighting the rise in the frequency and severity of domestic violence. This increase is due to a variety of factors including forced co-quarantine with an abusive partner, increased stresses surrounding personal financial constraints, the added strain of schooling children at home, and many others.

We are anticipating this year and the next to be even more difficult than most for the women and children we seek to serve. Along with the many repercussions of COVID and the exacerbation of already dangerous and abusive situations, we are anticipating a major influx of women seeking shelter services after restrictions are gradually lifted and fears surrounding COVID-19 alleviate. We are already seeing an increase in the number of calls we are getting asking for shelter and resources. It truly is a pandemic within a pandemic, and the financial constraints that this places on our shelter in order to deliver the resources needed by women and children are massive.

If you’d like to learn how you can become more directly involved, please visit The Kelowna Women's Shelter' website at;