The Day-to-Day Reality of Delivering Shelter Services to Women Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence in the Context of System and Policy Demands
Journal of Social Service Research
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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of gender-based violence affecting Canadian women. Women often seek help from shelters to deal with IPV and its consequences. These shelters function within a broader context that shapes how services are delivered. This study was undertaken to better understand how structural factors including policies shape shelter service delivery and reveal systemic and structural complexities that influence those services and women's ability to rebuild their lives. This feminist qualitative study combined in-depth interviews and focus groups with 37 staff and 4 executive directors from 4 shelters in Ontario, Canada, and included critical discourse analysis of salient policy texts. The findings illuminate the complexity of the structural challenges faced by abused women and the shelters that support them. Systemic impediments were shown to determine how shelters support abused women, the obstacles women face moving forward, and the extent and availability of their options. Future research should include policy evaluation of policy written and enacted, cost analysis examining the actual costs of delivering shelter services and supporting women after leaving, examination of potential alternatives to the identified structural challenges, and investigation of system coordination of services and support for abused women.