Last year, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter housed 186 women and children in the city. They had to turn away 163 women seeking solace from violence due to a lack of space. (Pixabay)

Last year, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter housed 186 women and children in the city. They had to turn away 163 women seeking solace from violence due to a lack of space. (Pixabay)

Women fleeing violence in Kelowna turned away: An epidemic within a pandemic

Kelowna Women’s Shelter calls for system “flip”: Perpetrators should seek shelter, not women, children

Women fleeing violent relationships are facing tremendous hurdles due to COVID-19.

Last year, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter housed 186 women and children in the city. But they turned away 163 women seeking solace from violence, due to a lack of space.

The shelter has now partnered with a local hotel to temporarily house 10 women and their children. Yet, it’s simply a sliver of a problem only worsened during the pandemic.

In the past year, the shelter has seen a sharp spike in the number and severity of violent incidents at home.

With COVID-19 guidelines, socializing is prohibited, and women have not been able to lean on each other as they may have in the past. Group counselling, meetings and personal connections are literally off the table.

One woman, her name withheld due to privacy, staying in the hotel spoke to the Capital News about her experiences. While staying in the hotel is a welcome escape from a harmful situation, the separation from support has been difficult.

“To leave someone isolated in a hotel room alone for 30 days with no programming, that’s pretty risky.”

Meeting with other women in similar circumstances wold “create some comradely and some support” for people leaving violence, she said. An outreach work stops by the hotel four times a week, to help women one-on-one. However, one recipient of this attention described it as understaffed.

“If you’re leaving people isolated in rooms, that’s not an answer.”

The executive director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter said when the time is right to meet again as groups and heal together, they‘ll do so. For now, they will continue to obey health regulations.

“Flip the system on its head”

The Kelowna Women’s Shelter said the topic of isolation speaks to a much larger issue. If it was up to her, Kelowna Women’s Shelter Executive Director, Allison McLauchlan would flip the system on its head.

Every night, hundreds of women and children are turned away from shelters in Canada because the facilities are full.

“In a perfect world I would love to see the legal system change the way they address this issue, and actually hold and make the perpetrators accountable, and ask them to change their entire lives instead of the women and children…

“Let’s keep women and children in their homes, and safe, and let’s put the perpetrators in shelters and let’s give them support, learning and tools… But you need a legal system that is set up to support and enforce that type of model. We don’t have it yet.”

McLauchlan would like to see care continue for women and children through transitional housing emergency shelters. Next, a second stage of care, where women can stay longer in normal units and still get case management support. And finally, provide long-term housing opportunities to women and their families.

Only a few large cities in Canada have access to all three stages of support – Kelowna is not on that list. The use of 10 local hotel rooms as shelter is new since the pandemic began. In the past, they have had the option of using hotels in situations where violence is a concern, but never before has the shelter been able to use them long-term, with costs covered by BC Housing.

Since receiving access to the hotel rooms last year, McLauchlan said they have never been empty.

“Is it isolating? Absolutely, it is. Is having someone long-term in a hotel the ideal situation? No. Is it the best that we can do to try and get women to safety in these times? Yeah. Could we do more? Of course.”

Many of these decisions are beyond the administrators of a shelter.

Even with all the hotel rooms in the world, the problem won’t go away.

“You can build another four or five shelters in Kelowna, and I’ll fill them for you. That’s not getting to the root of the problem. That’s not getting to what creates the issue.”

For right now, McLaughlan said it’s important people talk about what is happening in their own homes.

“For many years, domestic abuse was never discussed, never talked about, was hidden. So let’s have honest talks and discussions about it.”

READ MORE: Community rallies behind Lake Country woman paralyzed while skiing

READ MORE: Targeted cash, social supports would be more effective than basic income: UBC panel

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusmental health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Oliver Municipal Aiport runway will be extended in spring 2021. (Oliver Municipal Airport / Facebook)
Oliver airport runway to be extended

The extension will be funded through a provincial grant

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

BC Housing has proposed that the emergency winter shelter at Victory Church at 352 Winnipeg Street be extended as a shelter until March 31, 2022. It was originally intended to be open until April 1, 2021. (Jesse Day - Western News)
One more year of ‘temporary’ homeless shelter in Penticton?

BC Housing has applied to extend Victory Church as a shelter for those experiencing homelessness

The Wrong Turn Tavern in Keremeos is for sale. (Facebook)
Popular Keremeos tavern up for sale

Owner Liza Sanders is selling The Wrong Turn Tavern for $800,000

Walter Makepeace was shocked to find two of his beehives were missing from his Keremeos acreage Feb. 20, 2020. (Contributed)
Allegedly stolen beehives create buzz in Keremeos

Walter Makepeace was shocked to see two beehives had gone missing from his property

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here are the stories that made waves in the Okanagan-Shuswap

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021
Kamloops-Thompson school district drafts new dress code policy after students sent home

The new policy is being created after a NorKam secondary student was sent home because of what she was wearing

Most Read