Open Doors is a 3-year YWCA Canada project that provides support and training to women’s VAW shelters and transition houses on trauma-informed responses to mental health and substance use concerns. Shelter coordination and follow-up is being facilitated by Women’s Shelters Canada (WSC, formerly the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses) and the British Columbia Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) is providing training delivery. The project focuses on systemic change for abused women coping with trauma, mental health and substance use through sharing an inclusive service model with shelter managers and workers and enhancing service coordination at the community level.

Selected participants will be trained on the ways that trauma can cause physiological changes that may trigger substance use and mental health concerns. Women who have mental health and substance use issues often face restricted access to transition houses & safe homes, which can increase their risk of homelessness and/or further violence. Open Doors participants will learn practical approaches to offering more inclusive and constructive services to women who are abuse survivors and who have these concerns. Participants will also learn facilitation skills for sharing and implementing these approaches in their organizations and, where possible, in their communities.

After the initial three-day training, participants are offered conference calls for peer to peer support, webinars and a resource website that offers tools for implementing and sharing the workshop contents within and beyond their own communities.

This project is funded by Status of Women Canada. It is a follow-up to the YWCA’s 2014 practice manual, Saying Yes: Effective Practices In Sheltering Abused Women With Mental Health And Addiction Issues. It also builds upon shelter and transition house feedback to surveys conducted by the WSC which show that training around mental health and substance use concerns is a top priority for shelters and transition houses. Finally, it builds on many years of work from the BCSTH’s Reducing Barriers program, which has trained transition houses in British Colombia and Yukon on ways of safely accommodating women with mental health and substance use concerns who have been affected by abuse. Because this training has already been delivered in BC and Yukon, those regions are not included in the Open Doors project.

Workshop Sessions

Between 2016 and 2019, the Open Doors project will provide Inclusive Service Model training in 5 regions of Canada, based out of 6 regional hub communities:

Ontario (Hamilton, ON) – July 12, 13 & 14 2016
Prairies (Calgary, AB) – November 15, 16 & 17 2016
Atlantic (Halifax, NS) – April 17, 18, 19 2017
North (Yellowknife NT and Iqaluit NU) – Fall 2018 and Spring 2018
Québec (Québec, QC) – Spring 2018

The project will train 50 women’s shelter and transition house representatives from 50 different communities across Canada. The workshop is targeted for first-stage shelters / transition houses. Accommodation, travel assistance and lunch are provided. There is no charge for participation, but participants are expected to share their knowledge within their organization.