A transition house for indigenous women and children escaping violence is expected to open in March.
The 10-bed project was announced in October by the B.C. government and was updated Friday at a press conference at the Snuneymuxw First Nation community building.
Renovations are happening now at the shelter location. Snuneymuxw Youth and Family Society will operate the shelter.
“This initiative is based in community and responds to a need identified by community…” said Chief Mike Wyse. “This is a program that will demonstrate support for women and children from a cultural perspective, one that embraces a connection with community and with the land.”
He called it a first step toward reducing violence in the community.
Mitzi Dean, parliamentary secretary for gender equity, spoke about the government’s women’s transition housing fund, which aims to spend $734 million over 10 years to build 1,500 units. In addition to the Nanaimo transition house project, 20 ‘second-stage’ units, offering longer-term shelter, are being built in Port Alberni and another 20 in Langford.
“We know that there’s a critical need for more safe housing for women on the Island and in many other communities in British Columbia,” Dean said. “Women and children who are leaving abuse need a safe and secure place to live and be supported.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the transition house recognizes different needs of people who require shelter and care.
“It is also showing genuine respect, being culturally sensitive,” he said. “In a society plagued by violence, to some extent, and particularly among First Nations going into facilities and places where there was no acknowledgment of your culture, your tradition, your sense of healing, this is an important day.”
According to a government press release, the transition house projects are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are meant to provide short-term shelter, typically for one-month periods.
Wyse suggested that in the past, there were times when shelter was not available.
“We’re going to be able to say yes, we can accommodate you, we can help you, we can support you in a good way,” he said.