Desperate need for transition housing for women fleeing abusive relationships

'A matter of life and death'

Last week, I stood up in Question Period in the Legislative Assembly to ask the premier and housing minister why the government has not opened the transition homes that are desperately needed in B.C., that were promised by the government in 2018.

As the gender equity and inclusion critic, I am deeply concerned about the shortage of housing for women fleeing intimate partner violence in British Columbia. It is unacceptable that vulnerable women and children are being turned away from transition houses due to a lack of capacity. It is a matter of life and death.

According to a recent census of B.C. transition houses, they served more than 1,800 people in a single 24-hour period. Shockingly, another 571 were turned away due to a lack of capacity.

The government's recent announcement of 150 new homes for women fleeing domestic violence is a step in the right direction, but it is just a drop in the bucket. The government had announced funding in its 2018 budget for 1,500 spaces for people fleeing domestic violence. However, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said just 188 of those spaces are actually complete, and another 181 are expected to compete sometime this year.

The government's pace of constructing new units is simply taking too long.

Since the re-announcement this past March, the government has only opened an additional 33. Even with those new units coming on, there will only be 367 of the 1500, or 73 a year. At that pace, it will take 20 years to build the transition housing needed five years ago,

This is another example of how the government has not provided the necessary housing for those that are in the greatest need. These spaces are needed now more than ever.

The statistics show there has been an increase in intimate partner and family violence in British Columbia for several consecutive years. It is alarming that, according to the Canadian Femicide Observatory, 173 women died by violence in Canada last year, up from 155 the year prior, with at least 24 of them in British Columbia. This situation demands urgent action from our government.

What is as concerning as the lack of transition housing, is that the vast majority of women using transition houses aren’t getting the longer-term housing they need to thrive. Only 4%of them are able to move on to affordable housing, while 75% of them leave the transition house and are temporarily sheltered or return home to their abusive partner. While 21 percent of them find available housing, it's usually beyond their means and precarious.

This lack of appropriate housing means more violence against women, and if they don't have anywhere to go, they are at risk of serious harm or even death. B.C. needs the government to get these promised units built and completed faster. We need to ensure that women fleeing intimate partner violence have a safe and secure place to go.

My question to you this week is this:

Do you think that there is a faster way to provide housing for women fleeing intimate partner violence?

I love hearing from you and I read everything that you write to me. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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