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CWAV Society raising money to build housing for women and families

“Violence against women is an appalling human rights violation. But it is not inevitable. We can put a stop to this.” 

“I have seen the urgent need for services for survivors – for safe houses, medical assistance, counselling and legal advice.” 

Nicole Kidman 

 

When she can't find safe housing, a women’s choices are severely limited. The impact is even more severe for women trying to escape abuse. If she has children, the difficulties are magnified. Lack of affordable and secure housing coupled with little income keeps women trapped in violence.

The YWCA finds that “when a woman in an abusive relationship is able to access the right kinds of supports - like safe affordable housing, quality child care, training and legal aid - she can escape the violence and begin to rebuild her life.”  In Ontario, St. Michael’s Hospital found "that women who experience intimate partner violence are incredibly resourceful and resilient. Over time, they are able to rebuild their lives, homes and families. Their success, however, is often experienced in small steps, and deeply tied to housing stability." St. Michael's final report states that "for many women, violence and poverty contributed to a lack of safe housing options, all of which negatively impacted their health and sense of well-being. This lack of wellness, in turn, made it more difficult to maintain employment, housing, and meet the needs of their families. 

Shamefully, Canada stands alone among the G20 countries as the only country without a housing strategy despite having poverty levels of between 15 and 20%. That means that poor countries like Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey do better than us. It means that countries known for repressive human rights like China, Russia and Saudia Arabia do better.   

In addition to their housing strategy, Australia has focused specifically on gender-based and intimate partner violence in their National Plan, “a 12-year strategy with a vision that Australian women and their children live free from violence in safe communities.” Within this strategy is a recognition that “the issue of housing is considered vital in terms of homelessness, welfare, policy making and well-being of women living with or escaping domestic violence.” 

Since its formation, Cowichan Women Against Violence has had a goal of providing safe housing for women. Somenos Transition House (SH) is one part of a needed continuum of providing safe shelter for those experiencing abuse. But a transition house is short and temporary housing. Residents are limited to a 30 days stay.

Our newest program, the Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) has added another level of assistance. It offers short term staff support and financial supplements so that a limited number of our clients (10) can secure longer-term housing. Financial assistance is limited to six months after which the woman is expected to be able to manage her expenses.  

Neither SH or HPP really address the needs of women and families that not only need safe affordable housing but the supports needed to build real independence. BC Housing describes second stage housing as programs that “provide emotional support, safety, planning, safe affordable transition housing, and referrals to support services and long-term housing." BC Housing has no government money to develop new second stage housing projects and no money to assist with funding the operations. Women needing second stage housing stay one to two years. Staff are needed to assist women with everything from emotional and crisis support to life and social skills to helping them access services. 

CWAV Society wants to fill the gap. We are raising money to design and build a multipurpose facility that will include 20 units of second stage housing and an equal number of affordable apartments renting at 10-20% below market rents. CWAV counselling, victim service, pre-employment, research and education and administrative services will move to this purpose-built facility. And, we hope to co-locate with a number of complementary non-profits with whom we can share space and resources.

If you want to help with this exciting project, you can donate time, money and expertise. We are planning a number of fundraisers over the next two years. If you are interested in assisting in any way to make this dream a reality, contact ED Jane Sterk at exe.dir@cwav.org or 250-748-7000, ext 228. 

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