To open an urgently needed winter shelter for homeless women in Cowichan, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island put out an appeal to community members to voice their support of the shelter. You did not let us down!
Thanks to the many people who wrote in to Council and came out to speak at the public meeting December 5, we’re very pleased to report that a three-year temporary use permit has been unanimously approved by North Cowichan Council, and the shelter is scheduled to open this month. (The shelter will operate nightly for five months during the periods of November 1 to March 31 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. Clients will stay at the shelter between 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.)
North Cowichan Council received 30 passionate letters of support from local residents and organizations such as the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction, Vancouver Island Health Authority, Clements Centre for Community Living, Our Cowichan Community Health Network, Community Futures Cowichan, and Cowichan Lake Community Services Society.
Most extraordinarily, however, were the seven Grade 6/7 students from Drinkwater Elementary who attended the December 5 public meeting with their teacher and spoke to Council about the shelter. As part of a school assignment, the students were given the task of researching and coming up with their own decision on the shelter. Most (18 / 22) were in favour of the shelter, but the class presented the Council with both sides.
Because you took the time to speak up, women who are sleeping on the streets will now have a warm and safe place to spend the night this winter. Thank you!
Below are excerpts from some of the shelter support letters written to Council, reprinted with permission from the Municipality of North Cowichan:
“If I could say anything on behalf of these women it would be:
‘See Me’ not a woman who struggles with addictions, poverty of mental illness
‘See Me’ for who I am: a mother, a sister, a daughter, grandma or friend
Don’t give up on me, please give me some hope.”
“Denying these shelters is telling women who are traumatized and vulnerable that we’d rather they risk their lives than help. That’s not the response of the community I know.”
“I write with my eyes filling with tears because I think, what are we turning into as people where we even have to vote on whether or not to provide shelter to those in need of it. Think of how much good we can provide for women who are our in the cold and think of how good your hearts and souls will feel knowing that we, as Cowichan folk, have chosen to open our hearts to those in need when they have been turned away by others because of misinformation. Let us see them as part of our Cowichan family and not as ‘others’ who we fear.”
“I think that some people are just two paycheques short of being homeless. As a woman I think I would be terrified to face even one night during the winter outside. The number of beds and housing in this town, proportionally, is ridiculous, not nearly enough. I give my firm support to this.”
“Many women, especially those that have been abused, feel uncomfortable and unsafe at Warmlands and chose to sleep outside rather than stay where they feel even more vulnerable. Providing a women-only shelter, at least in the winter months, would help to provide a safe place at night for these women and also help them to access community services and supports.”
“I felt the frosty chill in the air this morning as I put on my knee length down-filled, water resistant, hooded coat and pulled my car with heated seats out of my garage and drove to work. I feel very fortunate and privileged to live with such comforts. I am aware of the fact that there are people in this quaint little community who are not so fortunate. The proposed Women’s Winter Response Shelter would fill a much-needed gap in services for women in the community, offering a safe, warm, consistent and predictable place to find shelter and access to other community services.”