‘We’re barely keeping up’: Peel boosts budget for critical shelter project by $2M, pledges $250K more for survivors of intimate partner violence 

‘We’re barely keeping up’: Peel boosts budget for critical shelter project by $2M, pledges $250K more for survivors of intimate partner violence 

In a region where intimate partner and family violence has for years been the cause of more citizen-initiated calls to police than any other crime, funding to service providers that offer a safe haven to victims who flee these dangerous relationships has fallen woefully short of the rapidly rising need. 

“[For] 10 years, we've not seen any increases [in funding] to the community for the services,” Sharon Mayne Devine, CEO of Catholic Family Services Peel–Dufferin, the lead agency at the Safe Centre of Peel (SCoP), told regional councillors on July 6. “We’re barely keeping up in Brampton, how in the world are we going to expand?”

On June 21, Brampton councillors declared gender-based violence (GBV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) an epidemic in the city, but the performative motion was not followed by any funding for downstream or upstream solutions, such as mental health support and educational programs, that could prevent women from being abused by their partners in the first place. 

Nick Milinovich, Deputy Chief of Peel Regional Police (PRP), said in his experience, many of the homicides linked to intimate partner violence are completely preventable. According to national statistics, a woman is killed in Canada every six days by an intimate partner. 

“Elevating awareness, reducing stigma, encouraging — maybe not the survivor but somebody that loves her — to reach out and ask how you can help, those are so crucial to preventing those tragedies,” he said.

SCoP has been recognized by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in a June 2022 report as a national model in the pursuit of addressing IPV and supporting victims. Some of the services the centre provides include access to legal information, assistance navigating complex bureaucratic systems in criminal and social justice spaces, as well as linguistic and cultural support. 

Devine said the centre serves the community in 16 different languages across all of its partnership platforms. Women can speak their own language when they reach out for support. 

“It's critical for us to have a range of community partners to do this work because different community partners will have relationships with the diversity of the communities within Peel,” Devine said. 

According to PRP, in 2022, there were 9,242 reported occurrences of intimate partner disputes, which include interactions where criminal behaviour has likely occurred and others where abuse or harassment cannot be proven. In 2021, PRP created a specialized IPV unit that joined SCoP as an onsite partner. The same year, it responded to 17,000 incidents of family and IPV, around 45 every day. This number decreased slightly in 2022 with 15,800 reported incidents, or approximately 43 a day.  

According to Milinovich, three of the top four incidents that PRP responds to can be attributed to family and IPV. 

“Those are single incidents. Now imagine there's kids, there's family, friends, and community attached to those incidents, so you begin to understand the reverberating impact that family and intimate partner violence has in our community,” he said. 

Nick Milinovich, Deputy Chief of the Peel Regional Police, highlighted to Peel Council on July 6 that charges in IPV are escalating. “Every day in Peel, a woman is strangled by her partner,” he said. 


SCoP has also seen a significant rise in the number of clients helped. Between 2021-2022, it served around 70 percent more clients than the year before. It is currently faced with rapidly rising demand, but with limited resources to serve the growing number of people seeking help from abusive situations at home. 

SCoP needs more funds to keep current programs running, and also to save partnerships it is at risk of losing. Devine said the Region would have to step in with a pledge; requesting $250,000. 

“I've had conversations with both the federal government and the provincial government and what they're saying to me is, ‘you know, we want to see all three levels of government investing’, and everybody is waiting for the first amount of money to be pledged and put on the table,” she said. “It's a small amount of money to start with, but it would be a very meaningful, impactful amount of money so that the next time I meet with the Province and they say ‘Hey, is Peel willing to put money on the table for this?’ I want to be able to say, ‘yes they are and this is how much money they've pledged and now we're waiting for you to match or double those funds.’”

These funds would allow SCoP, which according to Devine’s presentation to regional council, has the largest dedicated IPV unit in Canada, to expand its current partnerships, stabilize its Brampton location and start the planning work required to expand into Mississauga. A range of stakeholder partners are excited about this new move, Devine said, but because there has been no new funding commitments for the past ten years, the organization has been reluctant to initiate any such partnerships. Between 2022 and so far in 2023, SCoP has seen eight times more self-referrals than the previous year with PRP’s IPV unit making 2.5 times more referrals than the other community-based sources.

“When I look at the discrepancy, between 57 percent of people coming to Brampton and 31 [percent] in Mississauga, you know, that is really attributed to the fact that it's hard for women to get from the south end of Mississauga, for example, all the way up to Brampton and so forth,” Devine said. 

Following the delegation, Mississauga Councillor Joe Horneck, a rookie member, immediately put forward a motion for a pledge of $250,000 so staff can provisionally include the funds in the 2024 budget, dependent on provincial contributions matching it.

In the meantime, Peel’s current affordable and supportive housing crisis has forced the Region to break its policy to never turn anyone away from a shelter. Sean Baird, Peel’s Commissioner of Human Services, said two weeks ago to Council that over 300 people had to be turned away in the two weeks prior to the meeting as a result of hitting capacity and running out of room in overflow spaces in local hotels. When shelters reach capacity, the Region usually places people in overflow accommodations. 

Early in the year, a staff report revealed that in addition to housing 50 families a week in overflow hotels, refugees from Ukraine and other countries were being accommodated in emergency situations, with the number of contracts between private hotel operators increasing 113 percent.

According to the latest data from the Region, 126 families, 53 single people and 47 young people are now currently in overflow accommodations. With a crisis facing cities like Mississauga, Brampton and Toronto, where the vast majority of refugees gather, recent media attention around the plight of many who are living on the streets prompted the federal government to commit an additional $212 million for the Interim Housing Assistance Program; while Toronto will receive $97 million out of the total it’s not clear how much will go to Peel.

Meanwhile, even overflow facilities in Peel are not available for women escaping abusive households and other vulnerable situations. Baird told The Pointer those who are turned away from shelters are still provided with access to food, transportation, and referrals to other community supports, such as food banks, but available shelter is a key factor for women in abusive relationships to consider in their decision to finally leave. Currently, 75 percent of women reported abuse and conflict with a partner, spouse or parent as the top reason for their loss of housing.

The Region’s sole transitional housing project in Peel that supports women and children fleeing violence, Armagh House, has faced many financial challenges since the pandemic. It was granted $5,255,862 through a Regional forgivable loan agreement to cover its staffing costs, to construct and operate an expansion project that would add 10 new transitional housing units, program space and outdoor amenities for women and children fleeing IPV. However, once the funding was secured, the organization faced multiple challenges with the rise in construction costs due to the pandemic, delays due to labour issues and unavailability of materials. 

Currently Armagh House has fundraised $1.2 million and secured funding through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), but still requires an additional $2 million. It applied for several funding programs through lending institutions, including CIBC, Scotiabank, Royal Lepage Shelter Foundation, RBC, and others, without success. Finally, Jannies Le, Executive Director of Armagh, approached the Region of Peel, requesting the additional  $2 million through the Peel Rental Incentives Program (PARIP). Without the necessary funding, current construction of the transitional housing would be difficult to complete. The request was unanimously approved by council two weeks ago. 

The expansion is desperately needed. In 2022, out of 148 referrals, Armagh House had to turn away 127 families, which were then forced to find shelter elsewhere, return to the abusive situation or resort to some form of precarious housing. 

“Families referred to Armagh have increased by over 100 percent in the past two years. On average for every one unit available we have to turn away about 30 families that need immediate housing and supports,” Le said. “The delays will result in women and their children remaining in their vulnerable situations or in the emergency shelter system longer.  In addition, Armagh may lose other funding they had secured for this project making the funding gap that much greater,” the report titled “Armagh – Transitional Housing Expansion Project” states. 

Transitional housing is critical in the effort to counter IPV. According to Le, “the return to abuser rates are substantially lower after a stay in transition housing.” Around 30 to 40 percent of people going to Armagh came from Brampton.


Through funding from the Region of Peel, Armagh House is working to complete its latest project which will add the first two transitional housing units for gender-based violence survivors in Peel. (Armagh)


In 2019, Peel’s shelter system only had 60 family units and 244 standard beds, many of which were for men and youth. Community housing, which includes emergency, affordable subsidized, transitional and supportive housing, is built by the Region of Peel, not the private sector. According to a staff report presented to Council, Peel “is in an affordable housing crisis and the gap between available resources and demand is large and growing. It is estimated that there are approximately 91,000 households living in core housing need in Peel. Current service levels meet approximately 19 percent of this need.” 

Council just committed to include $71 million in the 2024 Housing Support budget to launch a new program called the Non-Profit Housing Development Program, which would help non-profit organizations, such as Armagh, complete 50 transitional housing units, approximately 700 affordable units, 255 (24/7) supportive housing units and 200 short-term safe beds in Peel. These new targets, while more realistic, still fall short of meeting the current need. 

According to the Region, 28,811 households were on Peel’s centralized waiting list for a subsidized unit as of Dec. 31, 2022, which “may be under-reported” because of the backlog Peel Region’s Housing Services experienced last year. An updated figure to July 2023 was not provided. This is double the number of households that were on the waitlist in 2019.

Caledon Councillors Christina Early and Mario Russo addressed the reality of residents living in abusive situations, often because they have nowhere to go. “My concern is that a lot of the reporting in Caledon is not happening as it probably is throughout Peel but even more so because of the proximity to some of those services,” Russo said, adding that Caledon would be on board with facilitating key core partnerships that would help address the crisis. 

Devine said SCoP acknowledges this “gap” in Caledon and will be reaching out to the new leadership at Caledon Community Services about a potential partnership. 

But finding the money to meet these growing demands, she said, is the biggest issue, as more and more Peel residents are stuck in harm’s way.



Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SamanahAli

At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you

Submit a correction about this story