Protecting Airdrie women with emergency resources
Witnessing domestic violence in the Safeway parking lot was a life-changing event for Crystal Boys, founder and president of P.O.W.E.R. (Protecting Our Women with Emergency Resources) because it began a journey, both back – to face related trauma – and forward to the formation of an organization determined to establish a women’s shelter in Airdrie.
Boys, a domestic abuse survivor who spent her first weeks in a women’s shelter after leaving a violent relationship, knows the importance of shelter services to keeping women safe. Without somewhere to go and a plan to manage the future, many women are forced to stay in an abusive situation.
Her journey forward has led, in April 2015, to P.O.W.E.R., a non-profit organization that seeks to provide women in Airdrie and district with the means to leave an abusive environment through emergency resources, education and empowerment, thus creating a safe and sustainable community. Governed by a board of directors, the organization received registered non-profit charitable organization status on Dec. 1, 2016 and is now in the process of securing government funding, grants and sponsorships.
Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt advocates for a shelter in Airdrie and looks forward to the completion of the project. She says, “There is a need for a shelter in Airdrie; shelters in the surrounding area are full to capacity leaving women at risk.”
P.O.W.E.R. has established a hamper program which provides women with basic necessities (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) because many women leave with nothing. ADVAS (Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society) and Community Links provide crisis response and counselling and will continue to do so.
Great services are in place,” says Boys, “but they aren’t long term and they aren’t the full circle that these women need.
The shelter vision includes on- and off-site counselling, access to government resources, Alberta Works assistance, and court prep/support in partnership with Community Links and ADVAS. “A good shelter gives access to all these resources and empowers women to move on successfully,” says Boys. Access to low-income housing – giving women extended time to become emotionally ready to move on, settle their families and get back into the workforce – is the final piece of the vision. “You can’t rebuild your life in 21 days,” says Boys.
Community interest has been extensive at events like the Airdrie Women’s Show and Light Up the Night. Private donations and support from service groups is very encouraging. P.O.W.E.R.’s first big event, the New Year’s Eve Gala, was well supported and will become an annual event. The first annual golf tournament will be held on May 29 at Woodside Golf Course and will include prizes, dinner and social activities. Smaller fundraisers will be held between major events.
In the near future, P.O.W.E.R. will add an educational program that focuses on healthy attitudes, language and relationships at middle-school level. Eventually a men’s program may be added.
Boys says it’s the women that keep her going. “Every time I want to quit, I think, what about those women. No one should have to live in that lifestyle. It’s terrible. It gets me every time.” She wants all women to know you can walk tall, come out of a relationship, start over and be proud.
Domestic violence on the rise in Airdrie
- Average 3 domestic violence calls per day;
- Each call uses the resources of 2 police responders;
- Estimated only 1 in 10 cases of abuse are ever reported;
- Unemployment and financial strain contribute to domestic violence.