The announcement that the provincial government is funding 30 new housing units for women escaping violence in Cowichan is welcome news as the community continues to grapple with an affordable housing and homelessness crisis.
The new building will provide apartments for women and children for up to two years, along with other services.
One of the scariest things for women looking to leave a violent situation can be that they feel they have nowhere to go. They often have little to no financial resources of their own and have difficulty finding a safe place to stay while they get back on their feet. Women in domestic violence relationships have often been isolated from the families and friends. Women can even feel trapped in toxic relationships because they fear homelessness more. It’s a fear that’s not unfounded, as rents can be easily $1,000 a month, even for a modest accommodation.
Somenos Transition House, a safe house whose location is secret, offers some spaces, but is frequently over capacity, according to Cowichan Women Against Violence, the group that runs the facility, and will run the new 30-unit building. There’s also the emergency night shelter for women that opened last winter, but that doesn’t provide a stable base for someone to start knitting her life back together, it’s more of a stop-gap. It is also not specifically for women escaping violence.
This new building is an excellent intermediate step between Somenos House or the homeless shelter and being set adrift in the world to fend for themselves. This should give women a chance to seek employment or get training, as they heal some of the psychological and emotional wounds caused by domestic violence. It can give them a place to rest their heads while they re-establish relationships with people in their lives.
And of course, anything that offers more units in the Cowichan Valley is a boon. The limited supply of rental stock has been an increasing problem for years, and has left many residents in the Valley, especially those at the bottom of the income ladder, scrambling to afford a decent place to live — or any place to live. In smaller communities especially, like those around Cowichan Lake, rental stock is especially scarce. Finding a good place to live can often be secondary to finding a place to live. As a society, we want to make it easier for women to leave relationships that are toxic.
This will provide much needed space to some of the most vulnerable.