Housing essential for women fleeing abuse

Kaeli Feehan is part of Catholic Social Services' parish liaison team.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Kaeli Feehan is part of Catholic Social Services' parish liaison team.

December 5, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON – The main reasons for women to stay in abusive relationships are money and housing.

That's why groups like Catholic Social Services make it their job to provide women with a housing option.

"At CSS we provide three different shelters for women in different stages on their journey of healing," says Liz John-West, program supervisor of CSS' LaSalle Residence.

Likewise, Wings of Providence provides a second-stage shelter for women and children undergoing family violence.

Over the last 25 years, Wings of Providence has sheltered 3,069 people, including 928 women and 2,141 children. It provides families with a fully furnished apartment for six months.

"They come to us referred from crisis shelters within the northern half of the province," said Linda Churchill, the organization's manager of resources and development.

ABORIGINALS, IMMIGRANTS

Right now Wings of Providence has 20 families who just moved in; 19 of those families are aboriginal. Generally Wings' population is about 50 per cent First Nations and 30 per cent immigrant families.

Churchill said sometimes the abuse starts during the first pregnancy and affects the woman emotionally, physically and psychologically.

Claire Rolheiser and Kaeli Feehan, members of Catholic Social Services' parish liaison team, encouraged participants at the Nov. 23 luncheon talk at the Catholic Pastoral and Administration Offices to promote education and awareness about family violence in their parishes.

"Violence affects the person physically, emotionally and psychologically and it affects them spiritually," Feehan said.

The pair offers an eight-hour workshop designed to help clergy and members of pastoral teams to respond compassionately and effectively when they receive disclosures of family violence. They have already given presentations in several parishes.

COMPLEX ISSUE

"We want participants to understand the nature of family violence. It's a really complicated issue and is one that often remains hidden behind closed doors," Feehan said.

"People don't talk about it. The first thing we want to do is just talk about it and help people understand what are some of the dynamics involved."

The second objective of the CSS family violence workshop is to increase participants' skills and confidence in responding to victims.

John-West said she was happy to hear from speaker Bob McKeon that the Church is speaking out against family violence.

"I'm not exaggerating when I say that probably 90 per cent of the women say sometimes the Church has failed them or the mosque or God or whomever. They speak very vulnerably of how that are grappling to see where God is in the midst of their violence."