Top Recommendations: Training, Operational Policies & Design
VANCOUVER, March 14, 2012 /CNW/ - The Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (EFry) today released Bridging the Divide: Building Safe Shelters for Women and Families in BC, a report which highlights the need for more shelters for B.C. women and children and sets out key recommendations to address their safety in co-ed emergency shelters. It is the result of EFry's November 2011 Symposium on Effective Shelter Design to Promote the Safety of Women and Families, during which representatives from every aspect of shelter design and operation collaborated to identify issues and solutions.
"There is a clear need to establish industry-wide standards around the physical shelter layout, operational policies and staff training," says Shawn Bayes, EFry's executive director. "The report makes recommendations in each of these areas that, if adopted, will significantly enhance women and children's safety in shelters and thus their likelihood of using them."
Top priorities include:
- Creating more family shelters and developing a protocol to assist families when no such shelters are available.
- Creating designated, separate women-only spaces such as sleeping areas, washrooms, lounge/eating area and counselling space.
- Having only female staff conduct bed checks on women.
- Ensuring safe access to washrooms and using doors that lock.
- Developing policies and procedures to address claims of violence or sexual harassment.
- Building relationships between shelter operators and other support services for women.
- Developing clear indicators for success in gender-responsive programs and incorporating these in RFPs and contracts.
- Implementing gender-responsive staff training, program evaluation and monitoring systems.
- Considering alternatives to new shelters in rural communities, such as mobile homes or scattered housing, rather than assuming separate space for women is cost-prohibitive.
- Developing a multi-partner funders working group on women's safety to develop mutually supportive and consistent policies.
A copy of the full report is available at www.elizabethfry.com/initiatives/shelter-symposium.htm.
EFry is an independent organization providing support services to women, girls and children at risk of involvement, involved in or affected by the justice system. Its programs work to break the cycle of poverty, addiction, mental illness, homelessness and crime. EFry operated three emergency shelters in the Lower Mainland: one for women-only, two for women with children.
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