Being included in the first wave of expanded housing and shelter resources for women and children fleeing violence is incredible news, says the executive director of the Central Okanagan Emergency Shelter in Kelowna.
Karen Mason said the society had been in the planning stages of how to provide more second stage housing beyond what the existing 30-day stay, 16-bed shelter can currently sustain.
The Kelowna proposal calls for both second stage and permanent affordable housing.
“When the province was soliciting applications last spring or summer for this it fell right in line with what we were talking about so we wanted to get on board with that,” Mason said.
She said research has shown that a 30-day period for women trying to rebuild their lives after leaving an abusive relationship is not sufficient, and that transition to second stage housing for up to two years significantly improves the chance for success in their life re-adjustment process.
“The implications of suffering from a violent relationship can last years. Simply finding shelter for a 30, 60 or 90 period doesn’t allow them the time needed to access the support they need to guarantee a successful outcome,” Mason said.
“You have to imagine that women and their kids often show up at our shelter in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their back, feeling their life is threatened, dealing with a crisis situation with feelings of panic, trauma and depression.
“It’s a bit much to deal with, especially with the shortage of affordable housing here, that someone can recover from all that and possibly find employment after being a house mom in just 30 days.”
Mason described the society’s current emergency shelter as always full, sometimes a bit over-capacity, and the phone doesn’t stop ringing with women seeking help.
“The resources for dealing with domestic violence are woefully inadequate in communities across the province and across Canada, but this is a step in the right direction.”
She said BC Housing will search our potential sites for the new facility and build it, and the society will provide the staff resources and the knowledge derived from working with domestic violence victims for the last 40 years to operate it.
A $90 million investment to provide safe places for women and children fleeing domestic violence will create 40 new units of second stage and permanent affordable housing.
The Kelowna housing project, operated by the Central Okanagan Emergency Shelter, will be part of the overall 280-unit expansion of transitional and permanent housing facilities across the province.
At Thursday’s funding announcement in the Lower Mainland, Premier John Horgan said the 280 transitional and permanent affordable housing units are the first step of an eventual $734 million, 1,500 unit commitment over the next decade to help those fleeing violence in their homes.
“We ultimately want to stamp out violence in the home, but if we can’t stop it we need to help address the needs of those fleeing from that violence. And providing housing is an integral part of that reaction for women and children who can have a place to go and not have to remain in an abusive relationship,” Horgan said.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selena Robinson said community non-profit agencies have struggled for years to provide safe havens for women escaping a violent home situation, not just in larger centres like Vancouver and Victoria but smaller communities like Port Alberni, Smithers and Invermere as well.
“It is a sad reality that women are turned away from help for them and their children because of a lack of shelter housing and badly needed support services to help put their lives back together,” Robinson said.
“That is absolutely unacceptable and I am proud our government is making a long overdue investment. These 12 projects announced today are just the beginning and a major step forward,” she said.
Along with emergency transitional shelter support, Robinson said the funding will also address the need for second stage and permanent affordable housing needs.
Emergency transition housing is for a 30-day period but often women need a longer period of time to rebuild their lives, to seek out emotional and employment programs to help get their live back on the rails.
“Financial, emotional and legal issues can often be overwhelming and affordable housing can be scarce, hard to find in regions hit by high housing prices,” added Makenna Rielly, executive director of Victoria Women’s Transition House Society.
“Both short and longer term transitional housing is needed.”
Without those resources, the risk of homelessness often leads women to return to violent domestic situations out of frustration, said Joanne Baker, executive director of B.C. Society of Transition Houses.
“The investment in affordable housing… that is dedicated to women and children escaping violence is crucial,” Baker said.