UPDATE: Kelowna to get women’s supportive housing units - InfoNews

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UPDATE: Kelowna to get women’s supportive housing units

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October 26, 2018 - 1:43 PM

KELOWNA – The provincial government has announced that Kelowna is one of a dozen B.C. cities that will benefit from the first phase of a 10-year, $7.34 million Building BC: Women's Transition Housing Fund.

The 40 units of new housing expected to soon be built for women and children fleeing domestic violence is desperately needed, says Karen Mason, executive director of the Kelowna’s Women’s Shelter.

“We are absolutely excited to be selected to develop and operate a new project of second stage and permanent affordable rental housing for women and their children who have experienced intimate partner violence and abuse,” she wrote in an email.

The organization currently operates a 16-bed emergency shelter that is almost always full and sometimes overflowing. With no safe place for clients to go after their allotted 30-day stay is up, they often stay longer so women in crises situations cannot be accommodated.

Mason told iNFOnews.ca that these women are traumatized by domestic violence that can sometimes be life threatening. Once out of the immediate crises, they still need time to recover, to learn life skills and need safe places to live.

She is currently working with B.C. Housing to finalize a site for the new housing project. Once that’s selected, the final design work will determine how many units will be built. They are allotted up to 40 units under the provincial government’s new Building BC: Women's Transition Housing Fund, but she’ll squeeze more units in if she can.

While a government press release referred to the organization as the Central Okanagan Emergency Shelter Society, it’s better known as the Kelowna Women’s Shelter.

It’s been serving women and children in need from Lake Country to Peachland since 1980 and the current shelter has not increased its capacity for at least the five years that Mason has been executive director.

Ideally, the new facility will have a mix of what is called “second-stage” housing along with permanent affordable housing so women can move from the emergency shelter, through transition housing into a permanent home, Mason said.

While the government press release puts a six- to 18-month time limit on the second-stage housing, those limits are flexible.

“Research shows second stage housing offers women who’ve experienced violence much better long-term outcomes in their journey to lives free of abuse, and it’s long overdue that we have more of this supported service in our community,” Mason said, noting both Penticton and Vernon have more emergency shelter beds.

"The long term impacts of trauma are deep, and to know we will now have a larger opportunity to support families in a broader way once they move out of emergency and transitional housing, is just wonderful and it will be a true gift to the community,” she added.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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