Generous residents developing a drop-in space for Nanaimo's homeless women

By Spencer Sterritt
November 9, 2018 - 5:39pm

It's hoped women will soon be able to stay at the Selby St. Mission during the day to ease their weary feet and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.Selby St. Mission/Facebook

NANAIMO — It's hoped a proposed drop-in centre will Nanaimo's many homeless women find a safe place out of the rain.

Though it's still in early discussions, the Selby St. Mission intends to offer a warm and welcoming environment to those in need at a house on Selby St., though it's still unclear who specifically it will help.

Sharon Kelly, one of the many women involved in the project, told NanaimoNewsNOW they want to create a “non-judgemental, safe space for women. We envision it to be a sober and friendly with basic amenities. Put on the coffee pot, the tea, have some cookies or fruit available and a place to sit in front of the fire.”

She said they've heard from the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition many elderly homeless women are left adrift during the day. Since being cautioned they could have up to 200 people at their door without much marketing, Kelly said they're working to narrow down who specifically they want to help.

“We're going to be strategic in how we open,” Kelly said. “We're going to start small and organic. We'll get a feel from the women who drop in...to see what would be useful for them. We want to be as trained as we can be and we'll go from there.”

Volunteers are currently being trained through the Homeless Service Association of B.C., learning how to handle hostile interactions, welcome someone into a home and understand mental health and addictions issues.

“You have to start with a really strong foundation and be willing to be flexible,” Kelly said. “It would be foolish of us to just open the doors with absolutely no training and no plan, thinking it'll be easy to riff on the note we've decided to sing.”

There's already numerous services in Nanaimo, such as the Women's Resource Centre and Island Crisis Care Society. Kelly said they don't want to take attention away from existing services and programs in the community, instead wanting to help in any way they can.

A daytime drop-in centre was proposed by the City of Nanaimo in early 2018, though progress getting it up and running has been slow.

Conversations about the Selby St. Mission began last summer and have developed quickly since then. Kelly said there's still much work to be done and discussions to have and they're not sure when they'll be open.

A Facebook post in late October saying it would be open on Dec. 1 is incorrect, shared by the relative of an organizer without the full details.

“It would be really fun to be able to open the doors at Christmas time and have people in for tea and cookies, but if everything's not ready then we can't,” Kelly said. “This isn't something you can go into lightly.”

 

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