'There's no room': Lethbridge YWCA at capacity, turning women away

The Lethbridge YWCA is shown.

Officials with the Lethbridge YWCA say health restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 have forced the organization to operate at 50 per cent capacity, reducing available beds from 24 to 12.

"Somebody comes to your door and needs a space, to have to say 'I’m sorry, but there's no room at the inn,' it's so difficult and traumatizing, especially when you hear their stories," said YWCA Lethbridge interim CEO Tracy James.

The Lethbridge YWCA helps women in need who are facing homelessness, domestic violence or sexual violence.

James said 1,026 women have been turned away over the past 10 months as a result of limited space.

"It's not uncommon for us, if someone is needing to flee in the middle of the night, we'll open our living room and have them sleep on the couch and try to work on some housing or some referrals when they get up in the morning just to keep them safe," said James.

The YWCA has transferred some clients to surrounding community shelters including in Taber.

James said an alternative to staying at the shelter is helping find affordable housing for victims fleeing domestic violence, but that can be quite a challenge.

“The market has been a challenge, the inventory is so thin,” said Renter’s Choice and Management general manager Amy Breznik.

Renter's Choice compares the market for a single family home in Lethbridge to finding a needle in a haystack. According to Renter’s Choice, a single bedroom apartment on their website is currently going for $900 including utilities.

Breznik says the demand isn’t just in Lethbridge, with surrounding communities also facing a high need. But once a house is found, the challenges don't stop there.

"They need to have a strong application because they're competing with others. We are looking to get references or housing references, if they don't have those references, it's tough to then continue to be competitive… and most times they may lose the home,” said Breznik.

To help alleviate some of this problem, the City of Lethbridge has created the Municipal Housing Strategy.

In a statement to CTV News, the City says;

"Although the City of Lethbridge does not own or manage social or affordable housing, we have taken a leadership role to facilitate, convene and coordinate key housing stakeholders to promote collaboration and partnerships between housing stakeholders, and to advocate for capital and program funding to ensure our community’s housing needs are met. This is a community issue that requires a collective solution."

James says despite having to turn people away, those in need of a safe place should not give up trying at the YWCA.

"Just because we say we don't have space one day, we always encourage people to call back, even call back in the same day… Maybe somebody has found a spot and has been able to move out,” said James.

Do you already have, or are you planning to have a heat pump or air conditioning unit installed before summer?

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