Twenty children, ranging in age from newborn to 16, and their mothers will spend Christmas in one of two Langley safe houses.
They are among those lucky enough to have found a bed through Ishtar Transition Housing Society.
According to Ishtar Society executive director Laurie Parsons, the houses are over capacity and for the past 12 months they have consistently had to turn away an average of three families a day looking for safe refuge.
“We provide support for women who are living in cars or tents because there is no space in our houses or those [safe houses] in neighbouring communities,” said Parsons.
“One of our houses is one of very few in B.C. that allows for pets and many women will not leave home if they are concerned that their pet will be abused.”
The housing crisis and lack of affordable rent paired with inadequate income assistance has had a ‘tragic impact’ on the availability of space in transition houses and women and children trying to flee violence, she added.
“We are finding that those women and children who are staying in our houses are having to stay longer than in the past because it is so difficult to find housing.
“Many women give up on finding housing and return home to men who use violence. Some end up couch-surfing, some living in their cars.”
Ishtar Society is working with BC Housing to find a longer-term solution to these problems. Ishtar hopes to partner with BC Housing to build affordable housing for women, including single moms.
In the recent Metro Vancouver homeless count conducted in March, there were more women found to be homeless than any other demographic.
Many of those women are fleeing domestic violence.
Violence Against WomenGetting Worse
As far as violence against women goes, on average, every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
“The need for our services, our own statistics and the Canadian statistics reveal that there has been no reduction in violence but it has become much more difficult to leave a violent male partner for many women in Langley and elsewhere in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley,” said Parsons.
How Can You Help?
Ishtar would be grateful for new toys for children, gifts and gift cards for youth and women. They are also grateful for non-perishable food and hygiene items and monetary donations which help them meet the gap between funding and expenses.
Ishtar Society has two transition houses as well as a community-based victims assistance program, children who witness abuse program (recently changed to the PEACE program) a women’s counselling program, an outreach program and an MCFD liaison program. Services for both women’s and children’s counselling have a wait list, though they prioritize women and children who are not safe.
Anyone who would like to help make this Christmas a bit brighter for these families can call 604-534-1011 or drop into their counselling/admin office which is open to the public and is located at #101 6350 – 203 St., Langley V2Y 1L9 (mailing address).