Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran was joined by NDP parliamentary secretary for gender equality Mitzi Dean (right) and executive director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter Karen Mason at press conference Wednesday to announce 40-unit housing project for women and children seeking safe refuge from abusive relationships. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Safe refuge plan for Central Okanagan women fleeing domestic violence

Province, Kelowna Women’s Shelter partner on 40-unit social housing initiative

A new 40-unit housing project for women and children fleeing abusive relationships has been confirmed for Kelowna.

Under the Building B.C.: Women’s Transition Fund announced by the province last fall, the housing proposal will provide both second-stage and permanent affordable housing for women and children seeking to escape violent relationships.

Karen Mason, executive director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, partnering with BC Housing on the project, said land negotiations on the site are not completed, but are at a positive point where the next stage of architectural design can be initiated soon.

“I can say the proposed site is a great location for women in need…close to schools, transit and grocery store and other related services,” Mason said.

“If it was up to me, we would be breaking ground next week and have the it built within the year but there is a process to go through on construction projects so it will likely two to three years before these 40 new units are in place.”

Mason said the 16-bed shelter “is always full and the phone is always ringing” with women seeking safe refuge from abusive relationships for themselves and their children.

RELATED: Domestic violence on the rise across Canada

Last year, the shelter accommodated 243 women and children from Peachland to Lake Country, while also serving women in a variety of support services such as in-person counselling and phone crisis line work.

She said where possible, women are referred to other shelters and those who can get a bed at the shelter often have to stay beyond the normal 30-day stay, for up to two to three months, because there is no where else for them to go.

“We have targeted in the last three to five years the reality of the need to provide transitional housing beyond the shelter to help these women and children start a new life in a positive and safe environment, in a safe refuge from what they are escaping from,” Mason said.

RELATED: Loss of Greyhound bus service leaves gap for domestic violence shelters

“Everyday we see how gender violence is a plague that destroys lives and devastates families. Everyday we see women who feel at the lowest point in their lives, the absolute worst. But we are also seeing these women at their absolute best, in making the hardest, bravest and life-saving decision to finally leave, taking the steps to create an abuse-free life for themselves and their children.”

Mitzi Dean, provincial parliamentary secretary for gender equity, said the Kelowna project is part of a $734 million investment over the next decade to build 1,500 transition and second-stage housing, and long-term housing spaces for women and children escaping domestic violence.

RELATED: Study finds women in vulnerable demographics most at risk of domestic homicide

The Kelowna announcement is one of a dozen similar projects in communities across the province now underway. Other housing project locations in the Southern Interior include a second stage housing for 40 units in Kamloops and seven safe home and second-stage housing units in Invermere.

“These new transition homes in Kelowna and the Interior will make our communities safer and help women and their families rebuild their lives in safety and security, free of violence,” said Dean, the New Democrat MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin on Vancouver Island.



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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