Almost a year ago, a pair of researchers presented a report that recommended the construction of 16 “second-stage” housing units in Squamish and perhaps more in Whistler, Pemberton and Mount Currie. According to the report presented by researchers Margaret Forbes and Louise Godard, the “second-stage” units, in which women could live for up to two years, would give them time to escape abusive situations “while accessing the supports they need to build a new life for themselves and their children,” The Chief reported on Nov. 1, 2012.
For most of society, those sorts of facilities undoubtedly fall into the “nice to have” department, but clearly not in the “just gotta have.” Or so it would seem — witness the fact that during the past week, the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society (which commissioned the study thanks to a grant from Status of Women Canada) sent out an appeal for “emergency” funding to expand its Pearl’s Place Transition House in Squamish, and to upgrade services in Whistler and Pemberton, after it had to turn away a young mother and baby fleeing an abusive situation.
The response from our elected provincial representative: That the Province already funds the service in Squamish to the tune of $336,000 in Squamish and $56,000 in Pemberton. That Pearl’s Place was only full 86 nights last year and had only a 35 per cent overall occupancy rate. “There is always demands for a variety of different services,” MLA Jordan Sturdy said.
In other words: Queue up and wait your turn.
It’s unfortunate, of course, that in human terms, society doesn’t do nearly enough to support those facing dire situations, and that for those advocating on their behalf, it’s often a case of one step forward, two steps back. See a need for “second-stage” housing? Tough luck, because first, you’ll have to fight to keep the “first-stage” housing you’ve got already.
We don’t have the answer, but for what it’s worth: In Squamish alone, advocacy groups have identified separate needs for more “emergency” housing for women and children fleeing abuse, for more “supportive” housing for those with disabilities, for a larger homeless shelter and for a couple of “youth safe house” beds. Recognizing that each need is distinct, wouldn’t you think there would be enough similarities for two or more of those groups to get together and consider forming some sort of alliance?
— David Burke