Nanaimo homeless advocates visit Ottawa to speak on local issues

By Spencer Sterritt
June 17, 2017 - 3:37pm Updated: June 19, 2017 - 1:03pm

In recent months, Samaritan House in Nanaimo has had to turn away an increasing number of women because they're already full, and even have several seniors coming to them.File photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Several Nanaimo organizations helping those experiencing homelessness spoke about their issues on a federal level last week.

Violet Hayes and Ronell Bosman from Nanaimo's Island Crisis Care Society, as well as delegates from Haven Society and the local Immigrant Welcome Centre spoke to the Standing Committee of the Status of Women in Ottawa.

Hayes told NanaimoNewsNOW it was a “daunting but wonderful” privilege to talk about what she's seen in Nanaimo and how the Society has used federal money in the past to help their cause.

Predominantly, she spoke about how funding rules and changes have left them in a difficult position, such as in 2013 when they received money for a housing project one year, but not the next.

“We had just housed five people, taken out leases and hired an outreach worker,” she said. “And then we didn't get the funding for the second year....It would be nice if you could be guaranteed to have that money for three to five years instead of a single year and struggling to put together another proposal.”

Funding is also no longer available for capital projects, such as the much needed expansion to their Samaritan House women's shelter.

“We're desperate to expand and upgrade a 100-year-old shelter and we don't have any pot to apply to,” Hayes said. “It's a challenge.”

An increasing number of women are coming to Samaritan House for help and Hayes said without their expansion, they're having to turn away more.

“It's horrible to have to turn a woman away and wonder where she's going to go in the day time. Into the bush? Into an unsafe environment? Lots of times a woman will return to violence because they don't want to live in the streets.”

Nanaimo-Ladysmith NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson, who is on the standing committee and recommended they look at the barriers to economic security for women, said it was striking to hear the concerns from Hayes and others.

“These women know how much courage it takes for a woman to leave an abusive situation. They're very concerned if the first time a woman makes that move (and) there's no room at the shelter, then she's going back to a dangerous situation and she may not strike up the courage to leave again.”

Malcolmson said they want to examine the ways a woman puts herself in jeopardy by leaving an abusive relationship or situation, which should lead to better days but often ends with women coming to shelters in despair.

“We heard from a witness (on Thursday) from Comox Valley say when she left an abusive relationship, her husband sold the house, taking away her shelter and savings because she'd left.”

This is the last week of presentations and hearings before the committee ends for the summer. It will reconvene briefly in October before drafting reports and making recommendations to the Prime Minister at the beginning of the new year.


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On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit

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