The Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society is calling on the province to address a crisis at Pearl’s Place Transition House in Squamish. We say, give the community what they want. This safe house is the sole long-term shelter in the Sea to Sky for women and children. Give them what they need.
It’s not only about money.
We saw that in 2007 when the Province increased funding to Pearl’s Place, allowing for 24-hour on-site staffing. However, last year their mandate also broadened, requiring the charitable organization to help not just women in abusive relationships, but also women and children in unsafe housing. Women facing chronic homelessness, mental health issues and addiction were also referred to the transition house.
We expect Pearl’s would offer its best possible assistance to any woman who walks through their doors. Unfortunately some of those women are in a precarious state and in need of medical attention or counseling. It’s hardly a safe environment for a woman and child escaping abuse.
It doesn’t just create a potential risk for abused women and children, but also for the other women who are likely expecting a cushion of medical support if needed. But none exists. Pearl’s Place is requesting funding to fill this important staffing need, to which the government should have smartened up long ago and supplied it.
Instead, Pearl’s is another example of where cuts to the health care system are being off-loaded onto other, overburdened entities.
In the first nine months of this year Pearl’s has received referrals of 142 women and 60 children, but were able to house only 44 of those women and 24 children. Pearl’s Place is one of the smallest transition house projects in the province with six beds. They’re asking for only two more to alleviate what we see as unreasonable, excessive pressure on a weakened organization in a town poised for rapid growth.
Two things can happen to improve the situation at Pearl’s Place. One, retract the mandate they must attend to women with such complex needs. The house would prefer to cater only to women and children in abusive relationships. That certainly does not imply they’re a bad organization — they simply want the resources freed up to do what they were set up to do, and do that well.
Two, BC Housing and the Province of British Columbia heed the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society’s call for emergency funding for two new bed spaces and personnel trained to care for the women being directed their way.
And yes, install a fully staffed transition house program in Whistler. It will relieve the pressure on Pearl’s Place, while encouraging women here to seek help when they need it, without piling on the additional anxiety of asking them to leave their jobs and uproot their children for 30 days in a distant safe house. Such a facility in the resort would not only benefit the Whistler community, but the women across the whole corridor.
Whistler puts a lot of money into provincial coffers, more than any other community of its size in the province. Certainly there must be a little funding we can have back so we can look after our own when the unthinkable happens to them at home.