Windsor's Hiatus House eliminates six beds amid funding uncertainty
After decades ensuring the safety of women in our community, the Windsor Hiatus House is having a crisis of its own.
The highly secure women's shelter cut six beds on April 1 -- down from 48 to 42. Executive director Thom Rolfe fears necessary funding won't come through to open the beds back up.
Rolfe indicates the Hiatus House hasn't had a budget increase in 10 years and after hanging on as long as possible, the board had to make tough decisions about its level of service.
"We still turned down 164 women and 122 children last year," says Rolfe, who is worried that number will climb. "It's a really difficult situation to be in, it's the hardest thing our staff have to be in it's the hardest thing our staff have to do is say no to women that are calling and asking for a bed."
The annual budget at Hiatus House is $2.8 million for both lodging and programming. 95 per cent of that comes from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. According to Rolfe, 48 such intervention houses across Ontario are still waiting for their annual budgets from the ministry.
"We had to make decisions based on what we know. We can't live on promises that may or may not happen," Rolfe says.
Rolfe adds the previous liberal government provided $110,000 in stabilization funding, money that was expected to las for three years. All partner agencies are requesting that money be renewed by the Doug Ford government.
Independent MPP Randy Hiller called the government to task this week for keeping shelters in the dark on their funding.
"The year over year estimates show a reduction of $17 million for women shelters and supports for victims of violence."
Hillier said the numbers show a reduction in budgeting from $172 million to $155 million.
Minister Lisa McLeod fired back during question period at Queen’s Park.
“The perceived reductions are due to the elimination of unfunded and unallocated resources from the Liberal campaign budget,” she responded.
She told the legislature the Ford Government is increasing the budget by two per cent, or roughly $11.5 million.
“We continue to make our commitment to eradicate violence against women as well as sex trafficking in the province of Ontario,” McLeod said. “There will be no fiercer critic than me on that file."
In an email to CTV Windsor, McLeod’s office confirmed the minister met with all 48 agency partners last week, “to discuss some of the issues the sector faces – we’ll continue to have this conversation and work together.”
The government indicates specific funding information will be delivered in the coming weeks.
The Welcome Centre Shelter for Women in west Windsor is also seeing increased numbers. According to Debbie Cercone, the Executive Director of Housing and Youth Services at the City of Windsor, the biggest driver is family breakdown, followed by an undersupply of affordable housing in the city.
"In the last couple of years, our numbers in that particular program have increased 200 per cent," Cercone said.