A New Shelter by Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier
New shelter aimed at getting homeless women indoors
Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier
Published: Wednesday, December 02, 2009
A shelter opened in the Downtown Eastside Monday to provide beds for 26 homeless women who otherwise would be sleeping on the streets.
The shelter at 625 Powell St. doubles the number of beds the building's operator, St. James Community Service Society, provides a few blocks west at 329 Powell St.
"It's much needed because at our existing site [at 329 Powell], we turn away more than we serve every month," said Trudi Shymka, manager of the women and children's program at the society. "We're always full."
Shymka said many of the 1,500 homeless people in the city are women and avoid shelters that allow men and women. That's because many have suffered abuse and violence, she said.
"It just provides a place where they feel more safe, more secure," she said of the new shelter, which has shower, laundry and food facilities.
Shymka noted there are only a few shelters in the city exclusively for women, including a 12-bed facility on East Cordova. The goal is to get women referred to permanent housing.
"We try to support the women, build them up so they recognize their own abilities and move forward with their lives," said Shymka, noting some of the women are survival sex trade workers.
The provincial government provided the $1.2 million annual operating costs for the shelter and the building's owners, The 625 Powell Street Foundation, loaned the building to the society for at least two years.
The Foundation's involvement was key to the shelter opening and its donation was not lost on Housing Minister Rich Coleman, who attended the opening of the shelter Monday.
Coleman told the Foundation's three members that he will use them as an example in negotiations he has with business people wanting to reduce homelessness.
"What you've done today is show the rest of the corporate community that partnerships do work when it comes to addressing homelessness, mental health and addictions on the streets of Vancouver," said Coleman, noting the Foundation also arranged for private donors to pay for renovations. "There's been lots of groups that have talked and talked and talked but not done. And you are the difference."
Carl Vanderspek, Colin Smith and Terry Selman comprise the Foundation, which originally wanted to turn the building into "one-stop shopping" for people with HIV/AIDs.
Vanderspek said the plan was to renovate the former industrial sales building into a centre that would include clinics, a pharmacy, counsellors and other services dedicated to AIDS.
Vanderspek said the Foundation couldn't get enough money from the provincial government to build and operate the $342 million project.
But he said he is still confident the centre will open one day. Meanwhile, he urged other business people to get involved in providing services for people in need.
"They have to help," he said.
© Vancouver Courier 2009