September 6, 2018
For Immediate Release

CAWES: Shifting to Trauma Informed, Low-Barrier-to-Entry Services

CAWES has worked for many years to support women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Many hundreds of women and children have been helped—and continue to be helped—through our shelter and outreach programs.

In January 2017, we started an important transformation when we joined a national initiative spearheaded by the YWCA Canada and BC Transition Housing. This “Open Doors” initiative has two objectives: to encourage trauma informed and low-barrier-to-entry services in organizations that help women who have experienced violence. Our commitment to Open Doors, and to provincial efforts to improve services provided by women’s shelters, means that change is underway at CAWES.

We always tried to deliver services that were client-centered and evidence-based. However, as we learned about the need to address trauma we have had to re-examine every aspect of our services to ensure we are not inadvertently re-traumatizing clients in an attempt to help. We have also had to recognize that limiting our services to only women who experience domestic violence was not fair or justifiable: women can experience violence in many settings.

We learned we could, and need, to do more.

Now, among other changes, we are working with women in a way that minimizes re-traumatization. We are opening our doors to women who, in the past, we turned away or referred to other services. We are learning about, implementing, and encouraging our residents and outreach clients to consider harm-reduction strategies.

Our clients are sharing stories about how these changes are helping them. One client recently told us: 

“I am just writing because I wanted to update you on my Journey so far… I just got the news on Friday that I am transitioning into a Second Stage house… I will be in life skills 5 days a week and all kinds of groups for mental health, addiction, trauma, budgeting, academics… one-on-one counselling… I learned so far that I need 2 let go a bit, give myself more credit, and be in the moment… Without the help of ya’ll I wouldn’t be where I am right now… Thanks 2 CAWES staff I made the decision 2 ask for help as u supported me 2 get here”

Client’s unsolicited testimonial about CAWES’ new approach to programing.

This is the kind of feedback we would love to hear from all clients who have used our shelter and outreach services.

CAWES’ Board, management team and staff are committed to providing trauma informed, low-barrier-to-entry services to women in Central Alberta. We are collecting data on client outcomes, referrals, safety, and staff satisfaction, and we look forward to sharing our findings. We are committed to working with funders, partners, and the broader community to help everyone understand the changes we are pursuing, why they are needed, and how we can support each other as we continue our transformation.

We will be providing regular updates of our progress over the next year.  Should you have questions about what is happening at CAWES please contact Rayann Toner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 403-346-5643.


Roxanne Kirton
Marketing, Events & Volunteer Coordinator
Central Alberta Women's Emergency Shelter
Phone - 403.352.4080
Email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.