Kelowna housing project for women escaping violence benefits organization supporting them | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna housing project for women escaping violence benefits organization supporting them

Executive director of Kelowna Women's Shelter Karen Mason, left, and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran at a housing announcement for women and children escaping violence, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
February 06, 2019 - 3:48 PM

KELOWNA - Being able to display a more public face for Kelowna Women’s Shelter is just one of the benefits that will come when new transitional and supportive housing is built for women and children escaping violence in Kelowna.

A press conference today, Feb. 6, re-announced that a 40-unit building will provide transitional and permanent affordable housing for clients of the shelter but added no new details beyond what was sent out in a press release about the project in October.

What was new is that Karen Mason, executive director of the shelter, is hoping to move her office to the new facility.

“We hope to have this as a slightly more public-facing facility so we can have our offices and some programming out of this space as well,” Mason said.

Right now, she has to work out of the existing women’s shelter, the location of which is kept confidential because the women and children staying there are fleeing violent homes.

“When I have meetings, I go for coffee in the community,” Mason said. “Think about how much of my time is spent doing that. When people want to make donations right now, we send them to the Thrift Store, they drop things at the Thrift Store, we pick them up at the Thrift Store, we bring them back to the shelter.

“So this way, even just in terms of public education, we will have a space where we can have community classes to support women who may not have to stay with us in the shelter but need support to get out of a violent relationship.”

Such meetings can be held at the shelter but “everyone has to be top secret,” she said, adding that there are distractions with the office and residents being clustered so close together.

As was the case in October, negotiations continue in an effort for B.C. Housing to purchase land. Once that’s done the 40-unit building needs to be designed and built. That process could take a couple of years.

Unlike small rooms in supportive housing projects that have been launched in Kelowna in the last few months to help the homeless, these will be mostly two- and three-bedroom units. Mason hopes some might even have four bedrooms, since many of the residents will have children.

The shelter is supposed to allow women to stay only for 30 days, but it’s always full and many stay longer. It has 16 beds but about 240 women and children stay there for at least one night each year.

That shelter will remain but people will be able to move to the new building which will have transitional housing where they can stay up to 18 months. There will also be permanent affordable rental units.

Security will be provided on site for the safety of the women and children living there, Mason said.

When asked by why this project was being re-announced, Mitzi Dean, B.C.’s Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, said it was done to help inform people of the services available in the community and to show that the government is strongly committed to the project.

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