Last year, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter housed 186 women and children in the city. They had to turn away 163 women seeking solace from violence due to a lack of space. (Pixabay)

Last year, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter housed 186 women and children in the city. They had to turn away 163 women seeking solace from violence due to a lack of space. (Pixabay)

Women fleeing violence in Kelowna turned away: An epidemic within a pandemic

Kelowna Women’s Shelter calls for system “flip”: Perpetrators should seek shelter, not women, children

Women fleeing violent relationships are facing tremendous hurdles due to COVID-19.

Last year, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter housed 186 women and children in the city. But they turned away 163 women seeking solace from violence, due to a lack of space.

The shelter has now partnered with a local hotel to temporarily house 10 women and their children. Yet, it’s simply a sliver of a problem only worsened during the pandemic.

In the past year, the shelter has seen a sharp spike in the number and severity of violent incidents at home.

With COVID-19 guidelines, socializing is prohibited, and women have not been able to lean on each other as they may have in the past. Group counselling, meetings and personal connections are literally off the table.

One woman, her name withheld due to privacy, staying in the hotel spoke to the Capital News about her experiences. While staying in the hotel is a welcome escape from a harmful situation, the separation from support has been difficult.

“To leave someone isolated in a hotel room alone for 30 days with no programming, that’s pretty risky.”

Meeting with other women in similar circumstances wold “create some comradely and some support” for people leaving violence, she said. An outreach work stops by the hotel four times a week, to help women one-on-one. However, one recipient of this attention described it as understaffed.

“If you’re leaving people isolated in rooms, that’s not an answer.”

The executive director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter said when the time is right to meet again as groups and heal together, they‘ll do so. For now, they will continue to obey health regulations.

“Flip the system on its head”

The Kelowna Women’s Shelter said the topic of isolation speaks to a much larger issue. If it was up to her, Kelowna Women’s Shelter Executive Director, Allison McLauchlan would flip the system on its head.

Every night, hundreds of women and children are turned away from shelters in Canada because the facilities are full.

“In a perfect world I would love to see the legal system change the way they address this issue, and actually hold and make the perpetrators accountable, and ask them to change their entire lives instead of the women and children…

“Let’s keep women and children in their homes, and safe, and let’s put the perpetrators in shelters and let’s give them support, learning and tools… But you need a legal system that is set up to support and enforce that type of model. We don’t have it yet.”

McLauchlan would like to see care continue for women and children through transitional housing emergency shelters. Next, a second stage of care, where women can stay longer in normal units and still get case management support. And finally, provide long-term housing opportunities to women and their families.

Only a few large cities in Canada have access to all three stages of support – Kelowna is not on that list. The use of 10 local hotel rooms as shelter is new since the pandemic began. In the past, they have had the option of using hotels in situations where violence is a concern, but never before has the shelter been able to use them long-term, with costs covered by BC Housing.

Since receiving access to the hotel rooms last year, McLauchlan said they have never been empty.

“Is it isolating? Absolutely, it is. Is having someone long-term in a hotel the ideal situation? No. Is it the best that we can do to try and get women to safety in these times? Yeah. Could we do more? Of course.”

Many of these decisions are beyond the administrators of a shelter.

Even with all the hotel rooms in the world, the problem won’t go away.

“You can build another four or five shelters in Kelowna, and I’ll fill them for you. That’s not getting to the root of the problem. That’s not getting to what creates the issue.”

For right now, McLaughlan said it’s important people talk about what is happening in their own homes.

“For many years, domestic abuse was never discussed, never talked about, was hidden. So let’s have honest talks and discussions about it.”

READ MORE: Community rallies behind Lake Country woman paralyzed while skiing

READ MORE: Targeted cash, social supports would be more effective than basic income: UBC panel

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusmental health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)
UBCO program increases drug checking availability in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

January 2021 data shows of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl

Vernon Morning Star Boomer Talk columnist says while we must use caution while dealing with COVID-19, we must also take care of the mental health of those who must live either permanently or temporarily in our care. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal/AP file photo)
BOOMER TALK: Long term care is around the corner

Columnist recounts mother’s stay in local medical facility amid pandemic

Okanagan patients will benefit from the recent inclusion of the Medical Arts Health Research Group in a worldwide study with the National Institute of Health (NIH). The study will be a global collaboration for finding better treatments for COVID-19. (File photo)
Okanagan research group involved with finding better COVID treatments

Okanagan Medical Arts Health Research Group invited to collaborate in global study

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia’s (CFSEU-BC) Uniform Gang Enforcement Team (UGET) has arrested a man who was on the run for nearly a decade. (File photo)
9-year search for international drug trafficking suspect ends with arrest at YVR

Khamla Wong, charged in 2012, taken into custody Feb. 24 by BC-CFSEU

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Larch Place is the first building to be built in the BC Housing, Canadian Mental Health Association housing project at the corner of Third Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW. This view is from the Shuswap Street side where it sits behind the Graystone East building. (File photo)
Opening of doors at new housing development in Salmon Arm welcomed

BC Housing announces opening of 32 rental units, with 35 more expected in summer 2021

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read