Cowichan Women's Night shelter, one year in operation
One year ago on December 20th, the Cowichan Women’s Night Shelter opened its doors to provide homeless women with a safe, warm place to sleep, plus dinner and breakfast. The shelter has been at capacity nearly every day since and has provided much more than just a roof and a full belly.
On the night the shelter opened, Bertha (not her real name) showed up at the shelter door-- the night of the storm. She heard the shelter was opening so she fought the wind to find it during daylight hours then return at opening but when she did everything was dark. Then she saw a flicker of light, someone with a flashlight was coming towards her. They called out, “Do you need some food and a place to sleep? Our power is out but you are welcome to join us. We have candles, food and warm blankets.”
This began Bertha’s connection to the shelter, to staff and to on-going supports. Nightly, Bertha would journey back to the shelter for dinner, a shower, some dry clothes and a bed. Frequently she would tell the staff how much she appreciated being able to come to the shelter. She said it felt like ‘home’. She loved being able to relax and watch a movie before going to bed and one of her favourite special events was the evening they had a make-up party; doing each other’s make up, laughing and sharing together.
Bertha is a senior. Over the past year has had some health issues and her trauma began to catch up with her. Eventually, she needed the support of a walker. She would struggle to get her walker across the gravel path to the shelter. The staff’s compassion went beyond just giving Bertha a place for the night, food and company. They advocated for her to have a more permanent home and in October 2019, almost one year later, she was able to get her own place in a supported environment.
The Cowichan Women’s Night Shelter has helped over 200 individuals in the last year and is hoping to have more space to continue giving care to Cowichan Valley’s most vulnerable women.
The Cowichan Women’s Night Shelter is funded by United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, BC Housing and community donations. The space is donated by School District 79. CWAV staff and United Way representatives advocated for the need of this type of crisis housing for Cowichan region women for 12 months before the application was approved.
Click here, for more information about the Cowichan Women’s Night Shelter or Cowichan Women Against Violence Society.