There are just 120 beds at Ottawa’s five Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters, and demand from women needing a safe place to sleep far outweighs the supply.

“From April 1 of this year, 698 women have sought shelter in a VAW emergency shelter and have been turned away,” said Keri Lewis, executive director of Nelson House, which runs one of those shelters in addition to offering other services.

But women aren’t always turned away because all the beds are full.

According to Lewis, there are 30 to 40 shelter beds in Ottawa, including five at Nelson House, lying empty on any given night because the agencies don’t have enough staff and resources to make them available.