The 15 beds at the new winter-weather women’s shelter in Duncan are currently about half full in the evenings.
But Debbie Berg, executive director of the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society that is running the shelter which opened on Dec. 20, said those numbers are expected to rise.
She said it takes time for women who require use of the shelter to learn about it and get used to what it offers.
“We are in the process of connecting with the community and getting information out there about the shelter,” Berg said.
“We also expect more clients as more winter weather hits the Valley.”
According to a winter census completed in 2017, there are at least 65 women in the local area who are considered absolutely homeless or “precariously housed.”
Based on the homeless count data and feedback from United Way’s partner agencies, the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness and Housing identified the dire need for the temporary shelter for women, now located at 2003 University Way, in a building owned by the Cowichan Valley school district.
Other proposed locations for an emergency shelter for women, including the old school building on Cairnsmore Street and one the old Charles Hoey School in Duncan, had already been rejected by the City of Duncan’s previous council, largely due to protests from neighbours.
The council in the Municipality of North Cowichan gave unanimous consent for the shelter after a packed public hearing late last year.
Berg said she has been very pleased so far with the response to individuals, groups and organizations in the Valley that have stepped up to help set up the shelter, and provide supplies to run it.
“The community came together in an amazing way to help with the shelter,” she said.
“Anybody who wants to provide us with clothes and other supplies can give them to their local thrift shops. We are working with the shops to help meet our needs.”
Berg said the shelter will be holding an open house in late January or early February for the community to come and have a look at what it offers.