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Women's Action in Downtown Eastside for Women’s Safety

by DTES Power of Women Group


March 21, 2011 - Vancouver, BC: For the past two months a coalition of women-serving organizations have been raising the urgent issue of women's safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. This came in response to six reported sexual assaults at the First United Church Shelter in a 3-month period. Since then, it has come to light that there have been at least two additional reported sexual assaults in at least one other shelter, the Lookout.

Dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in the Downtown Eastside, women are organizing a march and an action on Tuesday March 22nd beginning at 1:30 pm. The march will proceed to BC Housing offices on 369 Terminal Avenue.

“The silence and normalization of violence and sexual assault against women in this community is unacceptable. BC Housing and the City of Vancouver are responsible to ensure that safe services are equally available to women in this community. Women should not have to choose between the indignity of homelessness and violence within publicly funded institutions” states Alice Kendall, Coordinator of the Downtown Eastside Womens' Centre.

An open letter by women’s organizations (included below in full) is calling on BC Housing for:

- A 24 hours low-barrier women-only drop-in space and shelter in the Downtown Eastside.

- Housing for homeless women and children with at least 100 new units to be made available immediately.

- Clear provincial standards for women’s safety in co-ed shelters to be implemented immediately in all existing and new shelters.

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Alice Kendall Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre 604-436-4594
Kate Gibson WISH Drop-In Centre 604-669-9474
Harsha Walia DTES Power of Women Group 778 885 0040
Angela Marie MacDougall Battered Women’s Support Services 604-808-0507

 

OPEN LETTER

March 22, 2011

Shayne Ramsey, CEO of BC Housing

Minister of Housing Rich Coleman

RE: Safe Housing and Safe Services for Women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

For the past two months we, a coalition of women-serving organizations, have been raising the urgent issue of women's safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. This comes in response to six reported sexual assaults at the First United Church Shelter in a 3-month period. Since then, it has come to light that there have been at least two additional reported sexual assaults in at least one other shelter, the Lookout.

We have been dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in the Downtown Eastside. According to BC Housing, the safety of women in co-ed shelters is a priority, yet we have seen no commitment to centering women’s safety in BC Housing contracts with service, shelter or housing providers. In fact, in addition to ignoring all our correspondences on the matter, one of your representatives inappropriate comment “Come on, shit happens, look at Rwanda, look at Libya” suggests that BC Housing does not consider women's safety a priority within their funded facilities.

Based on a clear vision and demands articulated by hundreds of women in the Downtown Eastside, we are calling for:

1) A 24 hours low-barrier women-only (*) drop-in space and shelter in the Downtown Eastside, ideally on Hastings Street between Main and Jackson.

2) Housing for homeless women and children with at least 100 new units to be made available immediately.

3) Clear provincial standards for women’s safety in co-ed shelters to be implemented immediately in all existing and new shelters, including but not limited to:

• Women-only facilities in co-ed shelters with adequate women-only beds and services within those spaces.

• Women staff and training for all staff by women’s organizations experienced in issues of sexual and gender violence. Shelter contractors must demonstrate the ability to ensure safety and security for women shelter users and all staff must be able to demonstrate an understanding of gender inequalities that contribute to violence against women.

Sexual assaults against women in this neighbourhood are normalized and their safety is not considered of highest priority as we have seen with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women. Women should not have to “choose” between the indignity of homelessness and being warehoused in shelters, and the high-risk of assault associated with both. As women serving organizations it is our mandate to expose and counter violence against women and we would be negligent and unethical if we did not.

We look forward to your timely response on this matter.

Signed,

Kate Gibson WISH Drop-In Centre 604-669-9474
Harsha Walia DTES Power of Women Group 778-885-0040
Alice Kendall Downtown Eastside Women's Centre 604-436-4594
Angela Marie MacDougall Battered Women's Support Services 604-808-0507
Marlene George, Chair of Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee 604-665-3005

We are supported by the following organizations in this call:

-    Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
-    DTES Power of Women Group
-    WISH Drop-In Centre Society
-    Walk4Justice
-    Battered Women’s Support Services
-    Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House
-    PACE Society
-    Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
-    Vancouver Status of Women
-    Oxfam Canada
-    No One Is Illegal Vancouver
-    Vancouver Action
-    Council of Canadians
-    Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society
-    Aboriginal Women’s Action Network
-    West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund
-    Streams of Justice
-    Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement
-    Carnegie Community Action Project
-    Purple Thistle Centre
-    W2 Community Media Arts Society
-    Life Skills Centre
-    Ending Violence Association of BC
-    Portland Hotel Society
-    Pivot Legal Society
-    DAMS
-    UBC Center for Race, Autobiography, Gender, and Age

(*) women-only includes all self-identified women.

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Comments

first united church security

security sucks eggs big time..
why are they there if they are too scared to protect people
it makes me very upset for people to live that way...

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