The Women’s Centre of Calgary provides quick access to basic needs, supplementing the needs for over 44,000 women across the city. Offering a safe and open drop-in space, they seek to create a sense of community for their contacts and those in need regardless of their financial situation. Esther Nwafor, Communications Coordinator, spoke about how her organization approaches the issues of providing short term housing for women.
What do you feel are the types of things your organization is doing that are the most innovative in creating equitable communities?
We run on a peer based model so we try to treat everyone as equal as possible. Staff volunteers, women accessing our services, we try to keep it as even as possible. We talk face to face with women, serving lunch in our space, keeping them stimulated with different activities and opportunities to connect with each other, as well as advocating for systemic change to not only work at the base level of providing, like immediate needs, but also the broader sense of the word, advocating for systemic change so that less people are left at the margins.
Who or what do you feel hinders the progress towards achieving equitable communities?
Short term housing does help in a lot of ways, but especially as women there is that added risk of experiencing assault in shelters that a lot of people gloss over. Or there’s just not enough room for them, or it could be pretty much be anything like getting your stuff taken from you. It’s a situation where these people are acting a certain way because they’re trying to survive as well. It’s hard in that way to get someone in a place where they’re truly safe, because sometimes they just don’t want to do short term housing.
What parts of the city do you see as being the most vulnerable?
There’s a lot of communities across the city that may need extra help in all of the quadrants. I can’t really speak on that because women who are accessing our services come from all parts of the city. And we don’t like to take too much information from them, like their address or something unless we need it for a food bank referral. So it’s kind of a people first approach, with everything coming afterwards just to bring that humanity back to the process of seeking assistance.
Who else do you feel is doing innovative work improving the well-being of communities?
I will say that the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, the CIWA, has also been really helpful in that sense. It’s helped so many immigrant families get their footing, learn more about the city and be more educated about certain things. For example, scammers usually target immigrants and CIWA sends education out about that and just keeps people in the know and provides them with immigration aid as well.
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