Inside the Walls of WEAC
When women arrive at the E4C Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre (WEAC), a homeless shelter open 24/7, it is their last refuge. They often arrive without any possessions, income or supportive relationships. They could be suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, recently discharged from the hospital with nowhere else to go, or escaping prostitution.
There were 487 homeless women counted in the 2012 Edmonton Homeless Count. A report on Intensive Case Management Considerations to Improve Housing Stability Amongst Women found that the unique needs of homeless women versus homeless men are rooted in women’s experiences of trauma as well as the distinctive risks that face this population, such as sexual exploitation and violence.
When women enter WEAC, they are provided with three meals, a bed off the floor, a set of hygiene products and clothes, to meet their most immediate basic needs. Angie Bartholet, Kitchen Manager, has been crafting these meals for 14 years. She describes, “the philosophy of our kitchen is that we want the women to enjoy their meal. We want them to leave happy, feeling full and satisfied each time.” These are meals that include homemade pizza dough and a menu with diversity and thoughtfulness throughout. Bagged lunches are prepared for those heading out to work during the day.
Women experience a sense of community at the shelter. There are barbeques, craft nights, games and make-over events. Students and volunteers lead these activities. Barb McClintock, a Support Worker who has been with WEAC for 8 years, dresses in a different costume every day of October and ensures that the décor of the walls changes with the seasons and holidays.
Once basic needs are addressed, WEAC focuses on assisting women to exit into their own permanent housing. An Outreach Worker and Placement Coordinator work to help the women become healthy both physically and mentally. The team supports women in recovery, works towards ensuring women are on the right medication, connects women with resources and providing income options so they have the best chance of success when they leave WEAC. Program Manager Mandie Dening summarizes, “Simply put, the Outreach Worker and Placement Coordinator figure out what people need and navigate the systems to see how they can attain it.”
The walls of WEAC provide a temporary refuge of support and dignity. By affirming the humanity of homeless women, E4C aspires to help each woman to rediscover their own hopes and dreams and take steps toward ending their homelessness.
In support of Homeless Women
With WEAC operating at capacity most nights and a turnover of 791 women staying at the shelter in 2012, WEAC cycles through basic necessities very quickly. The wear and tear on the building is also costly, due to this high volume of traffic. Donations of many forms aid in providing a sense of comfort to the women. Here are a couple ways to contribute to WEAC:
• In-kind items: pjs, new underwear, socks
• Financial donations are essential to this program. Donations can be made online at www.e4calberta.org/donate-to-e4c