Public urged to voice support for women’s winter response shelter


November 30, 2018


Public urged to voice support for women’s winter response shelter

at North Cowichan public meeting Dec. 5


Cowichan, BC – Members of the public are encouraged to attend a Municipality of North Cowichan public meeting on December 5 to voice their support for a winter response shelter for women who are homeless in Cowichan.

The funding, location, and lead operator have all been secured. The last piece needed in order for the shelter to move ahead is approval from Council.

After hearing from the public about the application for a temporary use permit to operate a winter shelter for women, Council will make a final decision on whether to approve the permit. United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, alongside Cowichan Women Against Violence Society, are asking members of the public to either write to Council or to come speak in support of the shelter at the public meeting.

The need for a women’s shelter was identified last year by the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness and Affordable Housing based on data from two point-in-time homeless counts, information collected from the local Warmland House shelter and other agencies, and consultation undertaken to create a Community Plan on Homelessness.

The point-in-time count from August 2017 identified 28 women and four children as being absolutely homeless. Another 51 women and 19 children were identified as hidden homeless or precariously housed.

“More than a year ago we saw an urgent need to provide women with a warm, safe space to sleep on cold winter nights, and we’ve been convening stakeholders and lobbying since then,” says Melaina Patenaude, community impact officer of United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island. “After an initial shelter application was denied by the City of Duncan last year, we persevered and found a new location and a new opportunity with the Cowichan Valley School District. We now need the public to come out and speak up in support to ensure it is approved by Council.”

The existing homeless shelter servicing the Cowichan region, Warmland House, is often at full capacity during winter nights and under-represented by women. An additional shelter would fill a much-needed gap in service for women and provide a safe space during the cold winter months. The shelter would also offer consistency and daily predictability, which is essential in stabilizing those who come off the street and in helping them to access support services and permanent housing.

“We know that partner violence is the second highest reason women seek emergency shelter, and when a shelter is mixed, women escaping violence can never feel fully safe and often opt to sleep on the street instead. This is one of the reasons women facing homelessness are underrepresented in shelters and there’s need for an emergency shelter for women only,” says Debbie Berg, Executive Director of Cowichan Women Against Violence Society.

If the permit for the shelter is approved by Council at the public meeting, Cowichan Women Against Violence Society will be the operator of the shelter, aiming to open the doors by December 20th.

North Cowichan Council will hear from the public on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 during regular council at 1:30 p.m. prior to making a decision on the application. Members of the public may attend the public hearing to speak in front of Council, or they may provide written comments to Council by emailing before 4:30 p.m., Monday, December 3, 2018.

Facts about the Temporary Winter Response Women’s Overnight Shelter:

·       Located at 2003 University Way, in the old School District 79 concession building facing TransCanada Highway near Vancouver Island University

·       Funding from BC Housing is secured for operation until March 31, 2019

·       Open for guests from 6pm-8am daily

·       Fully staffed to support women and provide meals while staying at shelter

·       Will provide space for 15 women

·       Operated by Cowichan Women Against Violence Society

Information about the application can be found on the Municipality of North Cowichan’s website: