Province 'doing everything we can' while domestic abuse victims struggle to find affordable housing

The province says it's investing millions to increase housing spaces for women fleeing domestic violence as service providers turn away women and children in need because there is no place for them to go.

A lack of affordable housing in the province means women running from an abusive home, often without financial resources, are dependent on support services.

According to the Battered Women's Support Services (BWSS), about 200 women and children are turned away from shelters in British Columbia every night.

Mitzi Dean, parliamentary secretary for gender equity, says a $730 million investment in housing over the next 10 years will help.

"We are doing everything we can as fast as we can," said Dean on CBC's The Early Edition Friday, saying the money will be used to increase transition housing spaces so women running from an abuser will be able to find refuge.

Dean said the NDP government is creating 1,500 new spaces particularly for domestic violence victims. BC Housing now funds 2,300 homes for women leaving violence. 

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, 15 projects are complete or underway that will create almost 360 homes. Of these, 80 homes have opened and are in operation so far, with the other nearly 280 units under construction or in the development approval process.

'Absolutely no option'

Candace Stretch, manager of supportive housing and family services at The Cridge Centre for the Family, in Victoria, B.C. says the centre can't accommodate everyone who reaches out for help.

"We could fill three times as much housing as we have now," said Stretch on CBC's On The Island Friday. The Cridge Centre has 36 units they can move women into.

According to Stretch, women leaving an abusive partner are normally dependent on income assistance which is less than $700 a month for a woman with two kids and "there is just absolutely no option in Victoria" to find safe housing at that price.

"Honestly, it is such a challenge to know what to say to people who are absolutely desperate and to feel in some ways that you are giving them the option to stay in a situation that is dangerous to them and very dangerous to their kids," said Stretch. 

Playing catch up

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of BWSS, which helps women in Metro Vancouver, said the organization responds to up to 1,800 calls a year from women with limited housing options, some of whom are considering returning to their abusers.

"There isn't housing for women to leave quickly and that's the reality," said MacDougall. "It becomes the reason women stay."

Dean said the government understands how urgent the problem is and wants to work with community partners.

"We've seen cutbacks under the previous government," said Dean.

"We've had for such a long time so much neglect on the housing crisis that we are really trying to catch up."

To hear the complete interview with Mitzi Dean on The Early Edition tap the audio link below:

To hear the complete interview with Candace Stretch On The Island tap the audio link below: 

Where to get help:

VictimLinkBC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual telephone service available across B.C. and the Yukon 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-563-0808.

Service is provided in more than 110 languages, including 17 Indigenous languages.

VictimLinkBC is TTY accessible. Call TTY at 604-875-0885; to call collect, please call the Telus Relay Service at 711. Text to 604-836-6381. Email VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca

Safe Home is a CBC Vancouver series on domestic abuse and housing affordability. It can be heard on The Early Edition at 7:10 a.m. PT starting Nov. 12 as well as local morning radio shows across the province. You can also watch for coverage on CBC Vancouver News at 6 weekdays and read stories online at cbc.ca/bc.