Brantford shelter for women closes over cost concerns
When Tammy Adams’ spouse died last winter, it sent her into a downward spiral of drug abuse.
“My life was in turmoil. I was not coping with it well at all,” she says.
In January, she ended up at an emergency shelter run by the Brantford Welcome In Resource Centre. Three months later, she says she’s sober, staying with friends, searching for more permanent accommodations and getting her life back on track – and she’s very quick to credit the shelter with helping her get there.
“When there was nobody else around, these guys were here for me,” she says.
Maureen Dykhuizen similarly calls herself “very fortunate” to have ended up at the shelter after a relationship ended.
“If this place wasn’t here, I would have been sleeping in my van,” she says.
Dykhuizen even started working at the shelter last summer, wanting to offer other women the welcoming environment she remembered from her stay.
As the executive director of the Brantford Welcome In Resource Centre, Trevor Beecraft is used to hearing stories like those of Adams and Dykhuizen.
The organization has slowly ramped up its services, moving from offering a wintertime respite to providing shelter year-round.
Beecraft says the shelter focuses on providing a safe, trusting environment with beds, showers and laundry facilities. Last year, it accommodated 108 women.
Looking to hire five part-time staff members to better accommodate its growing client roster, the organization asked Brantford city councillors for $100,000 in additional funding.
“We really felt confident that what we wanted to do was going to be well-received,” Beecraft says.
Councillors voted unanimously against that request, noting that they had turned down other requests for funding from other emergency shelters.
“They’ve all come forward looking for additional funding. To say to one ‘Here’s $100,000’ and say to the next one ‘We don’t have $5,000 to give you’ – I don’t think that would be prudent,” says Coun. John Sless, who chairs the city’s social services committee.
Instead, councillors approved $10,000 in funding to cover the impact of the minimum wage increase, and hired a consultant to review the city’s shelter system and suggest a more formalized funding approach than what is currently in place.
The report is expected to be complete by June, allowing councillors to make decisions on its recommendations in time for 2019.
For Beecraft, council’s rejection leads to a concern about what will happen to women in need of a place to stay before the new framework is in place.
City officials say supports are in place to ensure anyone who needs emergency shelter will be given it. Beecraft says that will likely mean the city putting women in hotels – at double the cost of what it would take for his organization to shelter them.
The Brantford Welcome In Resource Centre stopped offering shelter for women last month. The shelter continues to operate with 36 beds for men.
“It’s been heart-wrenching, to say the least … but if we can’t keep (women) safe here … then unfortunately we just can’t offer the service,” Beecraft says.
Fundraisers have been organized to try and gather the money the organization would need to reopen its shelter for women.
“Some people have that misconception that because you’re a woman, you can find a place to stay easier than a man,” Adams says.
“You can’t. It’s not there.”
In addition to the influx of female clients, Beecraft says the organization saw a 34 per cent increase in the number of seniors using it last year – often people who find it hard to afford to stay in their homes after their spouse dies.
Beecraft says the behaviour of people experiencing homelessness has also changed significantly in the past few years, with violent outbursts becoming more common. He suspects that is because of the emergence of crystal meth and fentanyl as the street drugs of choice, replacing alcohol and marijuana.
It’s estimated that about 250 people are homeless at any given time in Brantford, with women making up about half of that population.
With reporting by Heather Senoran