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Empowering Women In Shelters

3 women sitting and holding hands.


Did you know that women make up 27% of the overall unhoused population in Canada?


According to Statistics Canada, 5,466 people living in shelters were victims of abuse across Canada. Over half (54%) of the residents were women, while accompanying children accounted for 44% of residents.


Of the 2,749 women residing in these facilities for reasons of abuse, the majority (84%) were escaping intimate partner violence.


Among women residents who had parental responsibilities, the majority (76%) were admitted with at least one of their children.


These are heartbreaking numbers.


Shelters do an amazing job of protecting and offering a safe space to these women. In today’s blog post, we will share how we, as a community, can work on empowering women in shelters and help them regain their lives.


At ShiftLink, we know your time as a shelter administrator matters. We know your work matters. Interrupting your focus of caring for others to perform the time-consuming task of filling shifts in a pinch is frustrating at best. ShiftLink is not a band-aid fix. It is a response to your deepest need — to spend more time on what truly matters. We have created a software that will ease every pain point related to shift scheduling. Request a demo today or send us an email to learn more.



The Need for Empowerment

Before we can ever begin to empower someone, we first need to understand what they’re going through. Women who are experiencing homelessness face very unique and heartbreaking challenges.


Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Safety Concerns: Women seeking shelter are often escaping abusive or dangerous situations. Their primary concern is their safety and the safety of their children, making it crucial to ensure a secure and confidential environment within shelters.

  • Lack of Resources: Many women who enter shelters may have limited financial resources or may have been financially controlled by their abusers. This can create immediate challenges in terms of meeting basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.

  • Legal Issues: They may also be dealing with legal issues, such as restraining orders or custody battles, which can add another layer of complexity to their situation.

  • Childcare: Single mothers often make up a significant portion of shelter residents. Balancing childcare responsibilities with seeking employment or education can be a substantial challenge.

  • Isolation: Isolation from family and friends due to safety concerns can lead to feelings of loneliness and anxiety.


Psychological and Emotional Impact


Fear and Trauma

Women who have experienced abuse often carry emotional trauma. Seeking shelter can be a terrifying step, as it involves breaking away from the known, even if it is abusive.


Guilt and Shame

Many survivors of domestic violence or abusive relationships experience feelings of guilt and shame. They may blame themselves for the abuse, which can affect their self-esteem and self-worth.


Loss of Independence

Depending on an abuser for financial or emotional support may have led to a loss of independence. The transition to shelter life can bring feelings of vulnerability and dependence.


Uncertainty About the Future

Women in shelters often face uncertainty about what comes next. They may be unsure about finding a job, securing housing, or rebuilding their lives.



Society's stigmatization of survivors of domestic violence can be psychologically taxing. It may discourage some women from seeking help or support.


Children's Emotional Well-being

Women in shelters are often accompanied by children who have also experienced trauma. The impact on children's emotional well-being and development is a critical concern.



Empowerment Programs and Initiatives

There are specific programs and initiatives that work hard to help empower women who are experiencing homelessness.


Empowerment programs and the role of support groups, counseling, and mentorship collectively create a great support system for women in shelters. They empower survivors not only to escape abusive situations but also to rebuild their lives through strength and resilience.


Existing Empowerment Programs and Services in Shelters

  • Work Skills Workshops: Many shelters offer skills workshops that teach women practical skills such as budgeting, job searching, resume writing, and interview preparation. These workshops help them regain financial independence and self-sufficiency.

  • Educational Programs: Shelters often collaborate with educational institutions to provide on-site educational opportunities, including GED programs or vocational training. These programs empower women to enhance their qualifications and employment prospects.

  • Legal Aid and Advocacy: Empowerment in shelters includes legal support to help women navigate the complex legal aspects of restraining orders, divorce, and custody battles. Legal aid services ensure that survivors are aware of their rights and receive proper representation.

  • Crisis Intervention: Shelters offer immediate crisis intervention services to address the emotional and psychological needs of women. Trained counselors provide emotional support and help survivors cope with the trauma they've experienced.

  • Financial Assistance: Some shelters provide financial assistance to help women secure housing or cover immediate expenses as they transition to independence.

  • Childcare Services: Shelters often offer childcare services or referrals to affordable childcare providers. This enables women to attend support groups, counseling sessions, or work without worrying about their children's safety and well-being.


Support Groups, Counseling, and Mentorship

  • Support Groups: Support groups offer tangible empowerment in shelters. They provide a safe and empathetic environment for women to share their experiences, learn from one another, and build a sense of community. Support groups help survivors feel less isolated and more understood.

  • Counseling Services: Professional counselors or therapists are available in many shelters to provide individual and group counseling sessions. These sessions address the emotional trauma survivors have experienced, help them process their feelings, and develop coping strategies for moving forward.

  • Mentorship Programs: Mentorship programs connect survivors with mentors who have successfully transitioned from shelters to independent lives. Mentors provide guidance, encouragement, and practical advice on issues like job hunting, housing, and self-care.

  • Empowerment Plans: Shelters often work with residents to create personalized empowerment plans. These plans outline goals and steps to achieve self-sufficiency and independence. Case managers or counselors regularly review and adjust these plans to ensure progress.


Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

Building self-esteem and confidence among women in shelters is a fundamental aspect of their empowerment journey.


Group of women in group therapy session.


Strategies and techniques for achieving this involve fostering a nurturing and supportive environment within shelters, where women are encouraged to recognize their strengths and resilience. Group therapy sessions and individual counseling are also important in addressing self-doubt and negative self-perceptions, helping women reframe their experiences and regain a sense of self-worth. Attending skill-building workshops, such as assertiveness training and self-care routines, equip them with practical tools to assert their needs and prioritize their well-being.


Sharing success stories and testimonials from women who have thrived after leaving abusive situations not only inspires hope but also demonstrates that recovery and personal growth are achievable. These narratives provide tangible proof that empowerment is within reach and encourage women to believe in their own potential to lead fulfilling, independent lives.



Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

Breaking the cycle of abuse is the most important goal in the journey toward empowerment for women in shelters.


Empowerment gives survivors the tools and confidence needed to remove themselves from abusive relationships. It helps them understand that abuse is never their fault and that they deserve a life free from violence and control.


Empowerment fosters a sense of self-worth that allows women to set boundaries, recognize early signs of abusive behaviour, and seek help when needed.


Some strategies for recognizing and avoiding toxic relationships include education on red flags, healthy communication, and assertiveness skills, all of which empower women to make informed choices and build healthy relationships moving forward. By breaking the cycle of abuse through empowerment, survivors can chart a new course toward safety, autonomy, and ultimately, a brighter future.




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