Odyssey House Women’s Shelter saw an increase in the number of people who accessed the facility last year. In the full 2021 fiscal year, 194 women and 171 children used the organization’s services, while, to date, 160 women and 131 children have used Odyssey House’s services, with just under three months left in the 2022 fiscal year.
Executive Director Lisa Watson says in the past year not only has the facility seen an increase in usage but they also saw an increase in cases of escalated violence and strangulation.
“We complete danger assessments with the majority of individuals that access our programming, and we are seeing a heightened rate of violence,” Watson says, “as well as some of those coercive control pieces, like financial abuse, exploitation pieces like that. So we are just seeing an uptick in the seriousness of the abuse in our community.”
Watson explains the response to COVID-19 led to families being left isolated in their homes and not reaching out to their informal supports and now that things have opened up people are starting to reach out more. Those who are asking for help are feeling safe around coming into the shelter or accessing the Odyssey House’s services.
In 2022 the women’s shelter developed relationships with businesses like Giant Tiger, Homesense, Winners, and Marshalls. These relationships help Odyssey House when it comes to asks or needs such as clothing.
“But our financial donations, it was really quite surprising over the last couple of years about the generosity of our community and how they helped sustain us through a fairly precarious year.”
In 2022 the organization introduced a few new initiatives. The inaugural GrandeCon tops the list, with Watson calling it ‘something very outside the box’ that was considered a success.
“One of the other things we introduced is a partnership with Western Cree, so we do have a worker that goes out to a couple of our local reserves,” Watson says. “We really saw an uptick in individuals accessing our services from some of the rural and remote areas.”
She adds it was important to send someone out to these communities to establish relationships with the surrounding communities and the greater region.