Shelter looks to expand transitional housing


More than 200 women and children are finding an escape from domestic violence each year thanks to a local emergency shelter.

Rowan House Emergency Shelter has been in operation since 2000 – first at a small facility in Black Diamond, and for the past five years it has operated at its newer, high-capacity shelter in High River.

“We provide crisis intervention and long-term support and education for women and children fleeing domestic violence,” said Ally Cramm, Rowan House community relations co-ordinator. “We take in about 200 women and children a year, and we turn away almost double that.”

The facility has seven bedrooms and 24 beds. Women are permitted to stay for up to 30 days, though some might spend only one night before they find a safe place to be and others may extend their stay up to 60 days, said Cramm.

“It just depends on every woman’s situation,” she said.

While women could be turned away when there are no beds available at the shelter, they are never left without help, said Cramm. Counsellors will connect them with other shelters and try to provide any resources possible to help women in need, she said.

It costs $2.17 million per year to run Rowan House, and only 60 per cent of the annual budget is covered by the provincial government, said Cramm. The rest is covered by grants from Family and Community Support Services and institutions such as United Way, fundraisers and donations.

Rowan House is one of seven charities being supported by the 2017 Western Wheel Cares campaign. Last year each organization received more than $8,000 from the charity drive.

“These donations really mean we can continue to do the work that we do, because last year we found ourselves under-resourced, which means we had to tighten our budget a little,” said Cramm. “While we were fortunate not to cut anything at this time, we don’t want that crunch to continue.”

She said every little bit makes a difference in helping the shelter pay for basic needs like food and utilities, as well as helping pay for programs outside the shelter, like preventative education and ongoing support for women in transitional housing.

Currently, the Rowan House operates a scattered-site model of housing, which includes four units the society subleases to women at a subsidized rate so they can afford to stay in a safe place after they leave the shelter, she said.

The women are able to stay in the unit for up to one-and-a-half years, she said, which places pressure on transitional housing and also the shelter, which sometimes must house women longer to ensure they remain safe.

“We’re looking at expanding that to address the turn-aways we see in a year, because a lot of it is because women just have no safe place to turn to,” said Cramm.

The Rowan House Society is seeking land in Okotoks to build a transitional housing structure, in the meantime it’s looking at short-term ways to expand its current scattered-site model, she said.

A new program, community host homes, will be launching soon, she said.

“Community host homes work to have residents in the Foothills who may have a rental suite or an extra room to rent, or some kind of housing option that they would like to offer up to women leaving Rowan House,” said Cramm.

Volunteers would be vetted to ensure their home was a safe space, and would meet with the women so both parties can decide whether the arrangement would work, said Cramm.

From there, the living arrangement would work similarly to a typical tenant agreement, she said.

“The woman would receive support from Rowan House and the family would receive support, but it would mostly work like any other rental agreement,” said Cramm.

To participate in Wheel Cares, please call the Western Wheel office Monday to Friday from 9-5 p.m. (403-938-6397) to make a donation using your credit card. We also accept debit, cash and cheques (payable to ‘Western Wheel Cares’), either dropped off at the office, 9 McRae Street or mailed to Box 150, Okotoks, AB T1S 2A2 (please do not mail cash). Or visit to donate using Paypal.

All donations of $10 or more will receive a 2017 official tax receipt at the end of the campaign.


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