This publication is the fifth in a series of provincial studies describing women’s uses of shelters undertaken by the HBF and the National Shelter Movement of SA’s EU-supported ‘Enhancing State Responsiveness to GBV: Paying the True Costs’ project.
It builds on and extends these prior reports by attending to all women, rather than focusing only on those experiencing intimate partner violence, and by detailing the mental health needs of all women in shelters. Both emphases are important from a policy perspective. In the early 2000s, the Department of Social Development issued Minimum Standards which emphasized that shelters should be generic in their approach accommodating a range of types of victims of crime and violence. Today the effects of this decision are clear: women experiencing intimate partner violence currently comprise approximately half of all shelter residents. But while the composition of shelter residents may have changed, policy and budgets have not reflected this – including in relation to mental health services. There has also been limited attempt to assess the extent of need for shelters and to plan accordingly. This report explores these issues through a focus on six shelters in the Eastern Cape, the poorest province in the country, and the Northern Cape – the least populous province in the country.