A transition home for in Delta that helps women and children fleeing domestic violence had to turn away 600 people in its first year of operation, highlighting a need for more such services.
Azure Place, run by Women In Need Gaining Strength (W.I.N.G.S.), took in 130 women and children who were either experiencing or at risk of violence and needed safe housing in 2018. W.I.N.G.S. also opened a “second stage” housing project at a Delta church, where three families are now receiving support while they look to find a permanent safe home.
Gillian McLeod, the City of Delta’s corporate social planner, said it’s impossible to tell how many of the women and children who were turned away are from Delta because cases are dealt with on a first-come first-served basis, with Delta residents as a priority. That means those families seeking shelter at Azure Place can come from all over the Lower Mainland.
“The children and the moms are affected much more greatly if they have to leave their social support network and their school,” McLeod said about the way women and children are housed.
“What happens now is that’s decided individually, with the police or whoever is involved, whether it’s better for this person to be housed in where they’re from or somewhere else.”
She added that Delta could do with another housing program, however, funding allocated to these programs comes from the provincial and federal governments.
In its 2018 budget, the provincial government allocated $734 million over the next decade to help services such as WINGS with transitioning women and children into safe living conditions. Known as the Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund, the money is aimed at paying for some 1,500 transition, second-stage and long-term housing services. Second-stage housing refers to projects offering service from three to 18 months, as opposed to first-stage housing, which is an immediate, short-term shelter for up to 30 days.
Brenda Cozens, house manager at Azure Place, said the primary reason why 600 were rejected is that the shelter — a first-stage facility — has been at capacity. BC Housing added four beds to Azure’s operations last fall for a total of 12 spaces, but Cozens said there is a desperate need for more first- and second-stage housing in general.
“At this end, it couldn’t happen soon enough for us, so we’ll see how it gets parsed out,” Cozens said, adding that she has noticed more women feeling comfortable in seeking out services, which she partly credits to social changes as they relate to the treatment of, and support for, women.
“For the second stages, the opportunity doesn’t come up for the women very often. It is tough, especially within a 30-day limit, to find reasonable market housing for women because a lot of them are on income assistance, just having started off on their own.”