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Women crowd shelters to escape holiday abuse 0

By Nick Eagland, 24 hours Vancouver

Lower Mainland shelters like the Empress rooms are maxed out as holidays lead to more abused women. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Lower Mainland shelters like the Empress rooms are maxed out as holidays lead to more abused women. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Lower Mainland women’s shelters are struggling to cope with a surge of homeless woman looking for a warm place to stay — and not just because of the cold snap.

Rather, many women flee their abusive partners at this time of year, with the added pressures of the holiday season, , explained women’s shelter employees.

“Many women dread the violence that will happen when everybody’s together and the many days in the same house with the man and the children,” said Hilla Kerner of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. “Our transition house is full because some of them try to move out before the holiday.”

Many are turned away.

There’s a particular shortage of women-only housing and shelters, according to John Oldman, executive director of the Bloom Group, which runs Powell Place Women’s Shelter among others.

He said while the city and province are doing an “enormous amount” to improve the situation, the holidays are “a time when people feel the loss of not having a home very profoundly.”

Earlier this month, the province gave the Vancouver-based Atira Women’s Resource Society $350,000 to open the Empress Rooms in the DTES. The funding is part of the province’s winter response strategy, though the Empress will receive funding as long-term housing beyond winter.

Many women are “thrilled and emotional” about the Empress’ renewal despite the presence of drug dealers in the neighbourhood and the building’s violent history that deters some from staying, Atira CEO Janice Abbott said.

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver turns away about 100 women and children monthly on average from its shelters in Surrey and New Westminster. That forces them to seek shelter in the DTES, director Bonnie Moriarty said.

A City of Vancouver report counted 361 homeless women in October 2013, higher than ever before. The number of homeless, both men and women without shelter, however, had dropped to 273 in 2013, down from 811 in 2008.

 

 

 

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