Canadian residential facilities for victims of abuse, 2017/2018

by Greg Moreau

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Highlights

  • In 2017/2018, there were 552 residential facilities for victims of abuse operating across Canada that saw over 68,000 admissions in the previous year, the vast majority being women (60.3%) and their accompanying children (39.6%).
  • On the snapshot day of April 18, 2018, a total of 3,565 women, 3,137 accompanying children, and 8 men were residing in residential facilities for reasons of abuse.
  • Of the 3,565 women reporting abuse as their primary reason for seeking shelter on snapshot day, over eight in ten were there due to abuse by a current or former intimate partner.
  • Just over three-quarters of women residing in facilities for reasons of abuse on snapshot day with parental responsibilities were admitted with their children. Women were protecting their children from multiple types of abuse, including protecting them from exposure to violence (60%), from emotional or psychological abuse (53%), from physical abuse (35%), from neglect of all kinds (20%), and from sexual abuse (8%).
  • Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) women and children were overrepresented in residential facilities for victims of abuse. Representation of Aboriginal women and children was respectively 5 and 3 times higher in these facilities compared to their representation in the Canadian population.
  • In terms of immigration status, for non-permanent resident women, their presence was 6 times higher in residential facilities for victims of abuse than in the general population, and for their children, representation in facilities was nearly 10 times higher.
  • Of the women who left a facility on snapshot day, 21% returned to a residence where their abuser continued to live. For an additional 36% of women, either the facility or the women did not know where they were going upon departure from the facility. Other women reported they would be living with friends or relatives (18%), or entering another residential facility for victims of abuse (11%).
  • More than one-third of short-term residential facilities were full on snapshot day. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan reported the highest percentage of short-term facilities that were full (47%), followed by Quebec (43%), British Columbia (43%) and Ontario (42%).
  • Nationally, 78% of short-term beds were occupied on snapshot day. Provincially, Quebec (90%), Ontario (84%) and Saskatchewan (78%) had the highest proportion of occupied short-term bed spaces. Regionally, the territories had the highest occupancy rate at 98% (Nunavut 113%, Yukon 96% and the Northwest Territories 80%).
  • On snapshot day, 669 women, 236 accompanying children and 6 men were turned away from residential facilities for victims of abuse. The most common reason for a woman being turned away was due to the facility being full (82%).
  • While the average length of stay for the large majority (82%) of short-term facilities was less than three months, the average length of stay exceeded the mandated maximum stay of three months for 18% of short-term facilities. Ontario reported the highest percentage of short-term facilities with longer than expected average lengths of stays, with 30% reporting stays of three months or longer.
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Victims of violence often rely on support from social services that exist outside of the formal criminal justice system (Sinha 2013). In Canada, referrals to residential facilities and emergency shelters are among the most common made by victim service providers (Allen 2014; Munch 2012). There is also significant social and capital investment in addressing issues of family violence and gender-based violence nationally and internationally. Canada is among the 45 member states of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women, and in 2017, the Government of Canada announced It’s Time: Canada’s strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence (UNCSW 2018; Government of Canada 2017).

Residential facilities for victims of abuse have been providing an essential service to many individuals and families since the 1970s (Maki 2018; Tutty 2015). In addition to providing safe shelter and basic living needs, many also offer extensive in-house and outreach services specific to those who have experienced abuse of various kinds. These facilities also advocate on behalf of all victims of abuse in order to reduce victimization and its impact on communities.

Using data from the 2018 Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse (SRFVA), this Juristat presents information on residential facilities in Canada that are primarily mandated to serve victims of abuse, including women, men and accompanying children. The SRFVA replaces the Transition Home Survey (THS) which was conducted every two years from 1993 through 2014 (see Survey description). This article provides a profile of people who accessed residential facilities for victims of abuse, as well as a profile of those facilities.

The information presented in this article refers to two distinct time periods. First, data pertaining to the characteristics of facilities, the number of annual admissions and the types of services offered were collected in 2018, and are based on a 12-month reference period (2017/2018) that preceded the survey.Note  Second, a profile of those using residential facilities is based on the characteristics of persons residing in residential facilities on the snapshot day of April 18, 2018.Note 

This Juristat article was produced by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics at Statistics Canada with the funding support of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Over 68,000 admissions to residential facilities for victims of abuse in 2017/2018

As of the snapshot day of April 18, 2018, there were 552 residential facilities primarily mandated to serve victims of abuse operating across Canada (Text box 1). These facilities saw over 68,000 admissionsNote  in the previous 12 months, the vast majority being women (60.3%) and their accompanying children (39.6%) (Table 1). In total, there were 86 males admitted to residential facilities for victims of abuse (0.1%) over the 12-month period. These numbers may not fully represent the demand for services among male victims of abuse (Text box 2).

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Text box 1
Types of residential facilities

The term “residential facility” refers to any building, location or service that provides housing to individuals, regardless of the length of stay (days, months, or years). The primary mandate of such a facility refers to the main activity or service provided. For example, many facilities will offer services or support to individuals who may have experienced abuse (e.g., homeless shelters), however, they may not explicitly include this in their mandate. The Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse (SRFVA) focuses on facilities whose primary mandate is to provide residential services to victims of abuse, as opposed to facilities primarily mandated to provide housing services to persons who may or may not have experienced abuse. For facilities that primarily support victims of abuse, they may also support other people in addition to their primary mandate.

Within the context of the SRFVA, respondents were asked to report the type of facility they operated based on the expected length of stay provided for in their mandate, regardless of practice. They were grouped into two categories:

  • Short-term residential facilities include those with a general policy of providing accommodation for less than three months, and they typically provide individual beds to residents, as opposed to separate apartments or units. Short-term facilities include those considered to be transition homes, domestic violence shelters, or private homes that are part of safe home networks.
  • Long-term residential facilities include those with a general policy of providing accommodation for three months or more, and they typically provide residential units (e.g., apartments or houses) to residents. Long-term facilities include second- and third-stage housing, which are typically more permanent supportive types of housing that follow short-term housing.

The usual operations of short-term and long-term facilities are such that short-term facilities act as front-line centres for initial intakes, and may refer residents to long-term facilities. As such, short-term facilities often provide different services given the nature of their operations. For example, of those facilities reporting the general services provided by staff or volunteers at the facility,Note  95% of short-term facilities provide a crisis telephone line, compared to 30% of long-term facilities. Similarly, 78% of short-term facilities offer transportation services for medical appointments and court dates, compared to 42% of long-term facilities.

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Facilities reported operating either as short-term housing (428 or 78%) or long-term housing (124 or 22%), and are further characterized by the populations they serve.

For the 12-month reference period, there were 63,507 admissions to short-term facilities accounting for 93% of all admissions (Table 2). On average, each short-term facility reported 148 admissions. Meanwhile, long-term facilities reported 4,599 admissions with an average of 37 per facility.

The majority of long-term facilities (80%) and short-term facilities (59%) were located in urban areas.Note 

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Residential facilities for male victims of abuse

The majority of residential facilities for victims of abuse are mandated to serve certain segments of the population.

According to the Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse (SRFVA), the large majority (82%) of facilities were primarily mandated to serve women and accompanying children. A further 10% of facilities reported offering services to women only. Of the remaining facilities, 15 (3%) indicated that they were mandated to serve men as well as women and their accompanying children. No facilities indicated they were mandated to serve only men. The remaining 5% of facilities offered services to varying combinations of women and accompanying children.

The facilities that served men reported admitting 86 men in 2017/2018, and there were a total of 16 men residing in facilities on snapshot day of April 18, 2018.

These numbers are not necessarily indicative of the demand for services among male victims of abuse. According to the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization,Note  equal proportions of women and men reported being victims of spousal violence during the preceding 5 years (4%, respectively). Women, however, reported the most severe types of spousal violence more often than men. According to the National Shelter Study conducted in 2014, 72.4% of emergency shelter users aged 15 and older were male (Segaert 2017). Similarly, in the National Youth Homelessness Survey, conducted in 2016, 57.6% of the sample identified as male, and of those, 53.6% experienced one or more forms of abuse as children (Gaetz et al. 2016). Overall, more than one-third of the sample reported abuse by a parent as a contributing factor to their homelessness. These findings suggest that men are likely underrepresented as residents in facilities for victims of abuse, but are overrepresented among those accessing residential services through the homelessness services sector. This sector was out of scope for the SRFVA.

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Women and accompanying children represent virtually all residents

On snapshot day, there were 7,397 individuals staying in residential facilities for victims of abuse. Of these residents, 4,020 (54.3%) were women, 3,361 (45.4%) were accompanying children, and 16 (0.2%) were men (Table 3).Note  The vast majority (91%) of residents were residing in a facility primarily because of abuse, while the remaining 9% of residents were there primarily for other reasons (e.g., homelessness, crisis intervention, or emergency shelter).Note  Overall, a total of 3,565 women, 3,137 accompanying children and 8 men were residing in residential facilities for reasons of abuse on the snapshot day.

In general, the characteristics of residents were similar between short-term and long-term facilities.

More than eight in ten women experienced abuse by a current or former intimate partner

For the majority of women residing in facilities on snapshot day, the primary abuser was an intimate partner. Intimate partners include individuals who are legally married, common-law or dating.Note  Of the 3,565 women residing in facilities on snapshot day and reporting abuse as their primary reason for seeking shelter, 66% identified a current intimate partner as their abuser and 18% identified a former intimate partner (Chart 1).Note 

Chart 1 Relationship of abuser to women in residential facilities primarily for reasons of abuse, Canada, April 18, 2018

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Relationship of abuser to women in residential facilities primarily for reasons of abuse (appearing as row headers), Percent of women in residential facilities for reasons of abuse (appearing as column headers).
Relationship of abuser to women in residential facilities primarily for reasons of abuse Percent of women in residential facilities for reasons of abuse
Common-law partner 38
Spouse 23
Former common-law partner 10
Former spouse 4
Dating relationship 4
Former dating relationship 3
Other intimate relationship 1
Relative 6
OtherData table Note 1 4
Unknown 6

More specifically, a total of 2,686 (75%) women in residential facilities on snapshot day identified their abuser as a current or former spouse or common-law partner.

Overall, 1.5% were there due to abuse by a same-sex intimate partner.

Residential facilities offer various counselling services for adults, including individual (87%) or group (68%) counselling, safety and protection planning (97%), life skills training (82%), and parenting skills training (71%) (Table 4).Note 

An important service that has been recently identified as critical to those escaping violence is the accommodation of pets. The abuse of a pet or the threat thereof frequently co-occurs with domestic violence and is employed by the abuser as a means of preventing victims from leaving their homes (Barrett et al. 2017; Shelter Voices 2018; Stevenson 2009). In 2017/2018, 19%Note  of residential facilities offered pet accommodations in some capacity. According to the Shelter Voices Survey conducted by Women’s Shelters Canada, a lack of resources was the most common reason why women’s shelters were unable to offer pet accommodation services (Shelter Voices 2018).

Majority of women experienced multiple types of abuse

Of the women residing in facilities where the type of abuse they experienced was reported, emotional or psychological abuse (89%)Note  and physical abuse (73%) were the most common reasons for being at the facility on snapshot day. Financial abuse was also reported by about half (51%) of the women in these facilities (Table 5). About one-third of women experienced sexual abuse (33%) and harassment (31%). Other types of abuse experienced included cultural abuse (7%), spiritual abuse (6%), other unspecified abuse (5%) and forced marriage (2%). Additionally, 3% of women residents sought shelter to escape human trafficking or exploitation by being forced into sex work, and 1% of women residents sought shelter to escape human trafficking or exploitation through forced labour or other means.

Just under three in ten women who sought shelter also turned to the police

Self-reported data on victimization indicate that about one in five violent crimes is reported to the police, including spousal or intimate partner violence (Perreault 2015; Simpson 2018; Sinha 2015).

Just under three in ten women who sought shelter due to the abuse they suffered reported that abuse to the police (Chart 2).Note 

Chart 2 Women in residential facilities for reasons of abuse who reported to the police the abuse that led them to seek shelter, by region, April 18, 2018

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Region (appearing as row headers), Percent of women in residential facilities for reasons of abuse who reported to the police (appearing as column headers).
Region PercentData table Note 1 of women in residential facilities for reasons of abuse who reported to the police
Atlantic 34
Quebec 30
Ontario 27
Manitoba 45
Saskatchewan 32
Alberta Note F: too unreliable to be published
British Columbia 35
Territories 35
Canada 29

Women in facilities in Ontario (27%) were least likely to report the incident they experienced to the police, followed by women in Quebec (30%) (Chart 2). In contrast, 45% of women in residential facilities in Manitoba reported to police.

The majority of facilities reported offering various services that can support victims of abuse in engaging with the criminal justice system following an incident. Nationally, 92%Note  of facilities reported engaging in advocacy on behalf of victims of abuse, and 71%Note  of facilities reported offering legal services (e.g., paralegal services, assisting persons with legal documents, and obtaining legal aid or court support). The proportion of facilities offering legal services is driven by Quebec (87%) and Ontario (84%) (Table 4).

Three-quarters of women with parental responsibilities admitted with their children

The latest victimization data found that children who witnessed violence by a parent or guardian against another adult in the home were often also physically or sexually abused themselves during childhood, and they were more likely to have experienced the most severe forms of childhood abuse (Burczycka 2017). Additionally, after controlling for other risk factors, research to date has identified a positive association between childhood maltreatment and the risk of both violent victimization in adulthood, and the most severe types of spousal violence (Burczycka 2017; Perreault 2015).

Of the women (2,181)Note  residing in facilities with parental responsibilities,Note  76% (1,652) were admitted with one or more of their children, while the remaining 24% (529) were admitted without any of their children. On snapshot day, there were 3,137 accompanying children residing in facilities.

Overall, 26% of women did not have children or parenting responsibilities at the time of admission and the parental responsibilities of 7% of the women were not known.

In long-term facilities, 86% of women with children were admitted with one or more of them, compared to 71% of women in short-term facilities. Among those with parental responsibilities, women in short-term facilities were more likely to have been admitted without any of their children (29% versus 14%).

Given the potential impact of family violence on children, either by direct experience or bearing witness to it, it is important to have effective, child-focused services available to residents and their accompanying children. Of the facilities that offered services for children, 86%Note  of them reported offering counselling for children (e.g., play therapy, role playing and goal-oriented programming) (Table 4).

Majority of women protecting their children from exposure to violence

Facilities were asked to report which types of abuse women were protecting their children from by coming to the facility.Note 

Nationally, 60% of women were reported to be protecting their children from exposure to violence, 53% from emotional or psychological abuse, 35% from physical abuse, 20% from neglect of all kinds, and 8% from sexual abuse.Note 

In Nunavut, the percentage of women reporting protecting their children from all forms of abuse was notably high compared to other areas. Specifically, 69% of women (20 of 29) residing in facilities in Nunavut with their children indicated they were protecting them from sexual abuse, compared to the national average of 8%.

Majority of women younger than 45

Age is a key factor associated with the risk of violent victimization, and the rate of violent victimization drops significantly beginning at age 30 (Perreault 2015). Similarly, the highest rates of police-reported intimate partner violence for both males and females were experienced by people aged 25 to 34 (Burczycka 2018).

Of the women staying in residential facilities for reasons of abuse on snapshot day who reported their age, the large majority (76%)Note  were under the age of 45 while women aged 30 to 44 represented 43% of residents. The highest rates of residency were reported for women aged 30 to 34 (50 per 100,000 women of that age group),Note  followed by women aged 25 to 29 (47 per 100,000), and women aged 35 to 44 (28 per 100,000). The rate of women aged 65 and older residing in facilities for reasons of abuse was lowest (2 per 100,000 women of that age group).

Of those accompanying children whose ages were reported,Note  the vast majority (81%) were between the ages of 0 to 11. Specifically, 41% were aged 4 or younger and 40% were aged 5 to 11. These proportions were similar for both girls and boys. The highest rates of residency were reported for children aged 0 to 4 (58 per 100,000 population in that age group), followed by children aged 5 to 11 (39 per 100,000).

Children aged 12 to 14 accounted for 10% of accompanying children, while children aged 15 and olderNote  accounted for 6%. These proportions were similar for both girls and boys. These proportions may be partially impacted by the policy of some facilities to restrict the admissions of accompanying adolescent males after a certain age.

Aboriginal women and children overrepresented in residential facilities for victims of abuse

According to the latest Canadian Census of Population, 4% of Canadian women aged 18 and older and 8% of children aged 0 to 17 are Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis or Inuit).Note  In the Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse, 86% of facilities, accounting for 91% of residents, reported the Aboriginal identity of their residents as of snapshot day. More than one in five (22%) women aged 18 and over, and one in four (25%) children residing in facilities for victims of abuse on that day were Aboriginal (Table 6).

The overrepresentation of Aboriginal persons as victims of violence has been documented in previous research (Boyce 2016; Miladinovic and Mulligan 2015; Perreault 2015; Scrim, 2009). After controlling for other risk factors such as younger age, lower education and higher unemployment, Aboriginal identity was found to be a characteristic linked to a greater risk of victimization for women, but not men (Perreault 2015). According to an analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization,Note  Aboriginal females (220 violent incidents per 1,000 population) had an overall rate of violent victimization that was close to triple that of non-Aboriginal females (81 per 1,000) (Boyce 2016). Similarly, Aboriginal women (10%) were proportionately more likely than non-Aboriginal women (3%) to have been a victim of spousal violence in the five years that preceded the survey.

Over half (57%)Note  of the residential facilities that reported the services they provide to vulnerable populations offer culturally sensitive services that accommodate the unique needs of Aboriginal persons. For example, these services may recognize traditional healing methods and Aboriginal cultural norms and beliefs. At 24%, Quebec reported the lowest proportion of facilities offering such services. In other jurisdictions the proportion of residential facilities that offered culturally sensitive services ranged between 51% and 100% (Table 4). Quebec had the second lowest rate of Aboriginal residents staying for reasons of abuse on snapshot day (7%), after Prince Edward Island (0%).

Nationally, 30 (6%)Note  residential facilities indicated they were located on a reserve. Provincially, Ontario (7), Quebec (6), British Columbia (5), Alberta (4) and Manitoba (4) accounted for the majority of on reserve facilities, while another 4 facilities were located in the Atlantic region. The majority (27 of 30) of facilities located on reserve were short-term facilities.

Overall, short-term facilities located on reserve had an average length of stay (89% were less than 3 months) similar to short-term facilities located off reserve.Note  They had slightly fewer beds per short-term facility than those located off reserve (12 compared to 15) and fewer average annual admissions (104 admissions per facility compared to 151). Occupancy rates were similar for the 27 short-term on reserve facilities (71% occupancy rate and 26% of facilities full) compared to short-term facilities located off reserve (79% occupancy rate and 36% of facilities full) (Text box 3).

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Text box 3
Occupancy rates and capacity of residential facilities

The occupancy rate is calculated by dividing the total number of residents on a given day by the total number of funded beds, multiplied by 100. The occupancy rate provides an indicator of the total bed space being used at a given point in time.

While the occupancy rate may be below 100% for a given jurisdiction, individual facilities may be operating at or over capacity. Facilities were identified as being full if their occupancy rate was 90% or more. An occupancy rate of 90% was selected to account for some misinterpretation of the question regarding number of funded beds, as well as for the fact that some facilities may operate with fewer resources than required to fill every available bed.

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Representation of non-permanent resident women six times higher in facilities than in the Canadian population

Overrepresentation of non-permanent residentsNote  in facilities for reasons of abuse is also apparent. Of the women whose residency status was known on snapshot day,Note  9% identified as non-permanent residents, a rate six times higher than their representation in the overall populationNote  (Table 6).

Nationally, 8% of accompanying children aged 0 to 17 were non-permanent residents, compared to 0.9% of the general population of children of the same age, a rate nearly ten times higher than their representation in the overall population.

Non-permanent residency often carries additional barriers to accessing affordable and safe housing, including lower average incomes, less stable housing and employment, financial interdependence, and a lack of awareness of available services (Baker and Tabibi 2017; Tencer 2018). Similarly, these barriers may impact the ability of victims of abuse to seek alternative housing options or to make long-term plans when living with their abuser.

More than half (56%)Note  of residential facilities in Canada offer specialized services directed toward immigrants or refugees (Table 4).

Women who do not speak English or French overrepresented in residential facilities

Generally speaking, collecting data on service users through self-report data may lead to individuals who cannot speak either official language being underrepresented in findings. The Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse (SRFVA), however, collects administrative data from residential facilities so they are able to report whether a resident can speak at least one official language.

The 2016 Census of Population indicates 2% of women aged 18 and older, and 2% of children aged 0 to 17 are unable to speak at least one official language.Note 

Of the residents in the SRFVA for whom it was reported whether they could speak at least one official language well enough to carry on a conversation, 8% of womenNote  and 10% of children were unable to speak at least one official language on snapshot day, suggesting they are overrepresented compared to the general population in Canada.

Just over half (53%)Note  of the facilities reported providing specialized services for individuals in languages other than the two official languages (Table 4).

According to the 2016 Census of Population, 21% of women aged 18 years and older and 27% of children aged 0 to 17 years self-identified as visible minorities.Note  According to the GSS, the rate of self-reported violent victimization among visible minorities was significantly lower than among non-visible minorities (Simpson 2018). The number of women and children identified as visible minorities in residential facilities was more representative of the general population. Nationally, 23%Note  of women and 29% of accompanying children were reported as visible minorities (Table 6).

Just over one in ten women in residential facilities have disabilities

The 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD)Note  found that just over one in five (22%) Canadians aged 15 and older had at least one disability, and more than two-thirds (71%) of those with a disability had multiple disabilities (Morris et al. 2018). Research to date has found that having a disability, and the severity of the disability, are linked to lower levels of employment, and higher levels of poverty and violent victimization (Cotter 2018; Morris et al. 2018).

A recent analysis of self-reported data on violent victimization found that women with a disability were twice as likely to be victims of violent crime, and experience repeated violence over a 12-month period, than women who do not have a disability (Cotter 2018). Furthermore, over one in five women (23%) and men (22%) with a disability experienced abuse by a current or former partner in the five years that preceded the survey, a rate approximately two times higher than those without a disability.

Keeping in mind that women with disabilities are at greater risk of being a victim of violence it would be expected that they would make up a larger proportion of residents – however, this was not the case. According to the Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse, 13% of women and 8% of children residing in a facility for reasons of abuse on snapshot day had at least one disability.Note  The lower prevalence of disability among those in a facility for reasons of abuse could be attributed to the ability of victims to leave their home, the accessibility of facilities and the requirement of specialized services to meet the needs of persons with certain disabilities.

On snapshot day, just over half (53%) of long-term facilities, and over three out of four (78%) short-term facilities reported being either fully or partially wheelchair accessible.Note Note  Non-accessibility was higher in some regions. Nationally, 28%Note  of facilities reported no wheelchair accessibility, while 48% of facilities in Quebec, 44% in Manitoba and 40% in the territories reported no wheelchair accessibility (Table 4).

The survey also collected data on more specialized services for residents who have certain types of disabilities. Of the facilities reporting specialized services in this area,Note  roughly one-third or less offered services for persons with hearing disabilities (34%), persons with developmental or intellectual disabilities (32%), persons with mobility disabilities (20%), or persons with visual disabilities (19%) (Table 4).

When asked about challenges faced by facilities, meeting the diverse needs of clients was the third most commonly cited issue (30% of facilities).

Less than one in ten residents were repeat clients

Just under half (45%) of the women residents were first-time clients, while 24% had previously received service on an outreach basis only and 7% had previously received service as a resident in the last year.Note  The facilities did not know the repeat status for 25% of the residents. It should be noted that the survey was unable to determine if clients had previously been residents of other facilities before arriving at their current facility.

One in five women who leave a residential facility return to a residence where their abuser lives

On snapshot day, 103 women and 30 accompanying children departed a facility, 94% of whom left short-term facilities. For 95 of those women, information was reported regarding their destination: 21% were returning to a residence where their abuser lived, 18% reported they were going to live with friends or relatives, 11% were entering another residential facility for victims of abuse and 8% were returning home without the abuser there. For 36% of the women, either the facility or the women did not know where they were going upon departure from the facility.

Self-referral most common referral source for women entering facilities

The referral sources for women in short-term and long-term facilities differed significantly. This is expected in so far as entering a short-term facility often precedes or is a prerequisite to entering a long-term facility.

Of the short-term facilitiesNote  reporting referral sources on snapshot day, 44% of the women reported they self-referred to the facility. The most commonly reported external referral sources were the police (9%), a phone help line (9%), or a family member or friend (8%).

Of the long-term facilitiesNote  the most commonly reported external referral sources for women were another residential facility for victims of abuse (43%), another type of residential facility (11%), or other community agencies (8%), while one in four (23%) reported they self-referred to the facility.

More than one-third of short-term facilities in Canada were full

The availability of space within residential facilities can be measured by the percentage of facilities that are full (meaning at, or over, capacity), and through occupancy rates (Text box 3). There were a total of 6,500 funded beds in short-term residential facilities as of snapshot day, for an average of 15.2 beds per facility.Note 

In Canada, 36% of short-term facilities were full on snapshot day (Chart 3, Table 7).Note  Among the provinces, the following reported the highest percentage of short-term facilities that were full: Saskatchewan (47% of facilities), Quebec (43%), British Columbia (43%) and Ontario (42%). These four provinces account for 78% of the short-term residential facility population.

Chart 3 Occupancy for short-term residential facilities for victims of abuse, by province or territory, April 18, 2018

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Province or territory (appearing as row headers), Facility occupancy rate and Percent facilities full (appearing as column headers).
Province or territory Facility occupancy rate Percent facilities full
N.L. 50 23
P.E.I. 42 0
N.S. 60 17
N.B. 58 8
Que. 90 43
Ont. 84 42
Man. 47 11
Sask. 78 47
Alta. 69 15
B.C. 75 43
Y.T. 96 67
N.W.T. 80 20
Nvt. 113 40
Canada 78 36

While data suggest nearly two-thirds (64%) of facilities were not full on snapshot day, ease of access is also an issue. Individuals in need of residential services may have issues with transportation or mobility, such that they may only reasonably have access to facilities that are full. Similarly, residential facilities may also be limited by an insufficient number of staff or limited financial resources, despite beds being available.

Almost eight in ten beds in short-term facilities for victims of abuse occupied

Nationally, 78% of short-term beds were occupied on snapshot day. Provincially, Quebec (90%), Ontario (84%) and Saskatchewan (78%) reported the highest proportion of occupied beds (Chart 3, Table 7). Regionally, the territories had the highest occupancy rate at 98% (Nunavut 113%, Yukon 96% and the Northwest Territories 80%).

The occupancy rate is consistently higher in urban (83%) versus rural (67%) short-term facilities, except in Manitoba (23% versus 58%), Saskatchewan (75% versus 86%), and Newfoundland and Labrador (48% versus 53%), where the reverse was true. According to police-reported data from the 2017 Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR)Note  Survey, rural rates of crime are higher than urban rates overall, and rural rates were higher in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan relative to other provinces (Allen 2018).

In terms of long-term facilities, there were 124 long-term facilities with 1,314 units, for an average of 11 units per facility. On snapshot day, 2,332 residents were residing in long-term facilities, representing 32% of all facility residents, and an average of 1.8 residents per long-term unit. There was no significant difference in residents per unit for urban versus rural long-term facilities.

Facility at full capacity the most common reason for turning away victims seeking shelter

On snapshot day, 669 women, 236 accompanying children and 6 men were turned away from residential facilities for victims of abuse. Of the women turned away from facilities, 84% were turned away from short-term facilities. For all women who were turned away, the facility being full was cited as the most common reason (82%)Note Note  (Chart 4). Other reasons for turning a woman away included the victim profile being outside of the facility’s mandate (8%), safety issue (e.g., the individual was on a non-admit or caution list) (2%), and type-of-abuse experienced is outside the facility’s mandate (2%).

Chart 4

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4. The information is grouped by Reasons women were turned away (appearing as row headers), Percent of women turned away (appearing as column headers).
Reasons women were turned away PercentData table Note 2 of women turned away
Shelter was full 82.6
Victim profile outside of facility's mandate 7.8
Type of abuse experienced outside of mandate 1.6
Safety issue 1.6
Transportation issue 1.4
Lack of resources to serve persons with substance use issues 1.4
Lack of resources to serve persons with mental illness 0.5
OtherData table Note 1 3.1

Highest percentage of short-term facilities with longer average lengths of stay in Ontario and Manitoba

The average length of stay for the large majority (82%) of short-term facilities was less than three months, in line with the expected length for these facilities (Chart 5). However, it is notable that for 18% of short-term facilities in Canada, the average length of stay exceeded the mandated maximum of three months.

Chart 5

Data table for Chart 5 
Data table for Chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5. The information is grouped by Province or territory (appearing as row headers), Less than one month, One to less than three months and Three months or more (appearing as column headers).
Province or territory Less than one month One to less than three months Three months or more
percent
N.L. 31 54 15
P.E.I. 0 100 0
N.S. 25 58 17
N.B. 15 77 8
Que. 29 63 8
Ont. 14 56 30
Man. 39 33 28
Sask. 53 33 13
Alta. 61 34 5
B.C. 42 37 22
Y.T. 67 0 33
N.W.T. 60 40 0
Nvt. 80 0 20
Canada 32 50 18

According to the Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse, two of the top challenges facing facilities and their residents were a lack of permanent housing (38% of facilities) and a lack of affordable and appropriate long-term housing options upon departure (77% of facilities reporting on behalf of their residents).

Provincially, the average length of stay varied. For example, among the provinces, Prince Edward Island (100%) and Alberta (95%) had the highest percentages of facilities reporting average stays of less than three months. Ontario reported the highest percentage of facilities with average stays of three months or longer (30%), followed by Manitoba (28%).

For the majority (66%) of long-term facilities, the average length of stay was nine months or longer. The most common lengths of stay were stays between one and two years (31%), and stays between nine months to a year (26%). There were no differences in the average lengths of stay in the provinces or territories for long-term facilities.

Lack of funding, affordable and appropriate long-term housing most common challenges

Canada’s 2018 population growth rate marks the highest seen in almost 20 years and is the highest among G7 countries (Statistics Canada 2018). With this increased growth has come increased demand for housing and services. Vancouver and Toronto, for example, have low vacancy rates and the most expensive housing and rental markets in the country, prompting the development of new municipal housing strategies to address unmet housing needs (Housing Vancouver 2017; Toronto 2016). A lack of affordable and accessible housing, combined with a diversified set of needs, exemplify some of the difficulties victims of intimate partner violence face in successfully accessing and using the services designed to assist them.

Research suggests there is a link between homelessness and family violence or violent victimization more generally, in so far as victimization can often be a precipitant to homelessness or housing instability (Ali 2016; Gaetz et al. 2016; Kirkby and Mettler 2016; Maki 2017; Novac 2006; Perreault 2015). As noted above, almost one in five short-term facilities for victims of abuse are accommodating people beyond the mandated maximum of three months (Chart 5). Moreover, according to the latest National Shelter Study, between 2005 and 2014 the Canadian emergency shelter system was operating at over 90% capacity (92% occupancy rate in 2014) (Segaert 2017). In the same study, the average length of stay in emergency shelters had nearly doubled from 2005 to 2014, with a typical shelter stay increasing from 5.7 days to 10.2 days.

According to the Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse, the top four challenges facing residents were a lack of affordable and appropriate long-term housing options upon departure (77% of facilities reporting on behalf of their residents), underemployment and low incomes (50%), mental health issues (37%) and substance use issues (30%).Note 

The top three challenges facing facilities in delivering residential services were a lack of funding (46%), a lack of permanent housing (38%), and issues meeting the diverse needs of the clients (30%).Note 

Funding for residential facilities for victims of abuse largely provided by provincial or territorial governments

Residential facilities for victims of abuse reported spending $429.3 million to operate in 2017/2018 (Table 8). The greatest expense was for salaries, accounting for 72% of spending, followed by housing costs (e.g., house insurance, utilities and furniture) (7%) and direct client costs (e.g., food, supplies, transportation and disbursements to residents) (5%). The median annual cost of running the 428 short-term facilities in Canada was almost $705,000 each. For the 124 long-term facilities, the median annual operating cost per facility was about $151,500.

In terms of sources of funding, residential facilities reported $443.1 million in 2017/2018, with provincial or territorial government funding (71%) being the largest source of funding overall. Short-term facilities relied mostly on funds from provincial or territorial governments (74%), fundraising or donations (9%) and federal government funding (8%). Meanwhile, long-term facilities obtained funding largely from provincial or territorial governments (54%), regional or municipal governments (12%), and fundraising or donations (11%). The median funding obtained for 2017/2018 for short-term facilities was $726,000 and for long-term facilities was $163,500.

For half of facilities that made repairs or improvements, changes were major

Prior research has found that more than one-third of facilities for violence against women were built prior to 1980, and almost half of the facilities reporting needing repairs or renovations lacked the funds to afford them (Maki 2018).

Of the 552 facilities, 503 reported whether they had made any physical repairs or improvements to their facility in 2017/2018. Of those facilities, 68% of them reported making physical repairs or improvements, while 32% did not.

Of the facilities providing a breakdown of their repairs or improvements,Note  50% reported making only major, or major and minor repairs or improvements to their facility, and 50% reported making only minor repairs or improvements. The majority (58%) of facilitiesNote  used provincial or territorial government funding to make physical repairs or improvements, and 35% of facilities indicated using fundraising and donations (Chart 6).

Chart 6

Data table for Chart 6 
Data table for Chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 6. The information is grouped by Funding Source (appearing as row headers), Percent of all funding sources (appearing as column headers).
Funding Source Percent of all funding sourcesData table Note 2
Provincial or territorial government 58
Fundraising and donations 35
Federal government 18
Regional or municipal government 7
Joint federal, provincial or territorial agreement 6
OtherData table Note 1 12

Summary

An understanding of the state of residential facilities for victims of abuse and the people accessing these services is essential to develop targeted strategies for addressing issues related to abuse and victimization, as well as evaluating broader housing needs.

Findings from the Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse show that there were 552 facilities whose primary mandate was to serve victims of abuse operating across Canada in 2018 that saw over 68,000 admissions in 2017/2018. The vast majority of admissions were women and their accompanying children.

On the snapshot day of April 18, 2018, a total of 3,565 women, 3,137 accompanying children and 8 men were residing in facilities for reasons of abuse. Aboriginal women and children, and non-permanent resident women and children were overrepresented in these facilities compared to their representation in the Canadian population. Additionally, most women sought shelter as a result of experiencing abuse from an intimate partner. Of the women who left a facility on snapshot day, 21% returned to the home where their abuser continued to live. For an additional 36% of women who left a facility, it was unknown where they were going upon departure.

Across Canada, more than one-third of short-term facilities were at or over capacity, and almost 8 in 10 short-term bed spaces were occupied. Residents identified a lack of affordable and appropriate long-term housing as the main challenge they face, while facilities identified a lack of funding and a lack of permanent housing as the main challenges they face.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Admissions to residential facilities for victims of abuse, by province or territory, 2017/2018

Table 2 Beds, units and admissions, by type of residential facility for victims of abuse, and province or territory, 2017/2018

Table 3 Residents in residential facilities for victims of abuse, by resident type, province or territory, 2017/2018

Table 4 Percent of residential facilities for victims of abuse offering selected services, by type of service and region, 2017/2018

Table 5 Types of abuse experienced by women residing in residential facilities for victims of abuse, by province or territory, April 18, 2018

Table 6 Percent of women and children residing in residential facilities for victims of abuse compared to private households, by selected characteristics, province or territory, April 18, 2018

Table 7 Occupancy for short-term facilities, by urban or rural area, province or territory, April 18, 2018

Table 8 Funding sources and expenditures for residential facilities for victims of abuse, Canada, 2017/2018

Survey description

Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse

The Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse (SRFVA) is a census of Canadian residential facilities primarily mandated to provide residential services to victims of abuse (defined as ongoing victimization). The objective of the SRFVA is to produce aggregate statistics on the services offered by these facilities during the previous 12 month reference period, as well as to provide a one-day snapshot of the clientele being served on a specific date (mid-April of the survey year). The intent of the survey is to provide valuable information that is useful for various levels of government, sheltering and other non-profit organizations, service providers and researchers to assist in developing research, policy, and programs, as well as identifying funding needs for residential facilities for victims of abuse. This information may also be used by Statistics Canada for other statistical and research purposes.

The SRFVA is a redesign of the Transition Home Survey (THS). As part of the Family Violence Initiative, the THS was developed in order to address the need for improved information about services for victims of family violence.

The SRFVA questionnaire content was developed through consultations with stakeholders that occurred between October and December 2015 and subsequent focus group testing. The SRFVA differs from the THS in terms of survey frame, content, collection, processing and analysis. In particular, the scope of the SRFVA was changed from all facilities serving abused women and their children, to facilities primarily mandated to provide residential services to victims of abuse, including women, men and accompanying children. Due to these changes, data collected for the SRFVA are not comparable with historical THS data.

Target population and response rates

Facilities surveyed were identified by Statistics Canada through its consultations with provincial and territorial governments, transition home associations, other associations and a review of entities on the Statistics Canada Business Register. Facilities potentially in scope were then contacted prior to the collection of the survey to determine their primary mandate. These may include short-term, long-term, and/or mixed-use facilities, transition homes, second stage housing, safe home networks, satellites, women's emergency centres, emergency shelters, Interim Housing (Manitoba only), Rural Family Violence Prevention Centres (Alberta only), family resource centres, and any other residential facilities offering services to victims of abuse with or without children.

Of the 552 residential facilities who identified their primary mandate as providing services to victims of abuse in 2017/2018, 509 returned their questionnaire for a response rate of 92%. For those respondents who did not provide their information through the questionnaire, and for those respondents who did not answer some key questions in their questionnaires, imputation was used to complete the missing data for key questions. Imputation methods included the use of trend-adjusted historical data when available and donor imputation, where values are taken from a similar record in terms of facility location, type and size.

For more information and copies of the questionnaire, refer to the Statistics Canada survey information page: Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse.

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