Tuesday’s budget contained some very welcome and long-overdue investment in service responding to women and children who have experienced violence. The $18 million for “outreach and counselling support services for women and children affected by violence” demonstrates recognition that these programs have been struggling to meet demand right across the province.
We welcome, too, the $141 million to provide 1,500 new units of affordable housing for women and their children who have experienced violence. The Government has heard the anti-violence sector’s voice – the barriers to finding affordable housing in BC put women and children at risk of homelessness if they leave violence or at risk of further violence if the lack of housing prevents them from leaving.
But what about the Transition Houses and Safe Homes providing crisis shelter and support services to women and their children when they first flee violence? The public may be surprised to hear that the budget includes no increased operational funding for this core part of the service response to domestic violence – despite them struggling to meet the same demand as other anti-violence services. Women’s Shelters Canada’s 24-hour snapshot survey in 2017 found that 44% of responding shelters and transition houses in Canada had no available space on that day – clearly a situation that increases danger for women and their children.
Transition Houses and Safe Homes in BC have not received an increase in ongoing operational funding for a decade. As a result, those working as first responders to women and children fleeing violence do so with limited resources, performing complex and unpredictable work for very low wages, often during single-staffed shifts. Many transition houses rely on fundraising to ensure adequate food and supplies.
The BC Society of Transition Houses considers this to be a very misguided decision and will continue to advocate for increased operational funding for these vital services.
Media enquiries: Joanne Baker, Executive Director, 604 653 9075; Joanne@bcsth.ca