Like many other shelters in Alberta, the Wheatland Crisis Society (WCS) has been struggling to keep up with increased demand and the costs of operations. Because of this, the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters (ACWS) held a press conference with the WCS and other shelters to speak about the growing need for more support.
WCS Executive Director Carol McLeod explained one of the biggest challenges shelters are facing is staff retention, as they often don't have the budget to pay their employees well.
"They (staff) come in, they get trained, and then they move into other jobs elsewhere. Typically it's the government or Alberta Health Services which pay much better salaries than what we can afford to pay," she said.
The highest salary the WCS can afford to pay is the starting salary at AHS, so McLeod added she doesn't blame employees who decide to move to a better paying job. Even though she doesn't blame them, it does remain a problem, as it takes a lot of time to have shelter staff working at full capabilities. With the number of challenges and details in the job, hiring someone new to replace a former employee isn't an easy task.
This is just one of many challenges the WCS is facing, as inflation has made their food budget go up by 50%, and utilities have also risen significantly. On top of increasing demand for their services, the WCS and ACWS are calling on the government to increase funding for shelters. McLeod explained their funding hasn't changed since 2015, and while she's extremely grateful for the support they already receive, more help would go a long way. Beyond just more funding, McLeod is hoping the government takes a look at how they can support shelters through different methods.
"It's not only salaries, I think that we need to look at the model of care and the way we're actually providing it, because I think it's time to take a look at those things as well."
This includes but isn't limited to:
- Providing transportation or funding for transportation for people who may need to access the WCS from other communities
- Address the housing crisis. Getting people into second stage housing after their time at the WCS has been a huge challenge, so more housing and affordable options are needed.
- Streamline the grant process. McLeod said she spends a lot of time applying for grants and wishes she could use that time elsewhere to address other concerns.
Despite the challenges created by a low operating budget, McLeod said the WCS has been able to find ways to make it work. On top of incredible community support, she's also been crafty with the budget to make ends meet.
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