It’s been a long time coming, but Delta is finally getting a transition house for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
Delta North MLA Scott Hamilton announced on Friday (March 3) that the provincial government is investing $1.8 million toward the purchase and renovations of the house. B.C. Housing closed on the property last week and that it is expected to be ready for occupancy next month.
The house will be the first of its kind in Delta and will provide housing for up to eight women and their children.
“The home will serve as a refuge and a direct link to support services in Delta as these families start down a path to independence,” Hamilton said. “Women’s transitional housing provides a valuable short-term solution for women and children fleeing domestic violence.”
The provincial government is also contributing upwards of $500,000 annually to cover the facility’s operational costs, and B.C. Housing has issued a request for proposals from experienced non-profits to operate it.
Hamilton’s announcement comes more than three months after the province denied a request by a group led by the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) – South Delta for $500,000 in annual funding funding for a transition house in North Delta.
The group had secured a house donated by Corporation of Delta and $122,000 in funding for renovations from the federal government and had a operator, Chimo Community Services, ready to go.
However, as Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for housing, explained at the time, B.C. Housing was in the middle of its fiscal year and all of its budget was already spoken for.
But with a new year comes a new budget, and the Province is providing approximately $34.6 million to support more than 830 spaces in transition houses, safe houses and second-stage housing throughout B.C.
Hamilton thanked all the community groups involved in making the transition house a reality, saying, “It hasn’t been that long a road but it was a very important one to walk.”
“Delta, I always say, we operate on the backs of our volunteers and most of the people in this room representing this organization and what we’ve done here are volunteers, and I can’t say enough,” he said. “You are the heart and the soul of this community and we couldn’t do it without you.”
Last year, more than 12,300 women and children were assisted by provincially-funded transition houses, second-stage housing and safe homes.
George Harvie, Delta’s chief administrative officer, said having a transition house in Delta has been on council’s mind since Hamilton was a councillor, and that the absence of one has been a concern for Delta Police, council and for the community.
“Delta council stepped up and offered a house. We knew it was going to be a bit small but we needed something. And fortunately by offering the house it started the ball rolling,” Harvie said at the announcement. “But, MLA Hamilton, we can’t stop here. We need more than one house. We’re a large community, and hopefully we can keep working on that.”
Gillian McLeod, Delta’s corporate social planner, said she was pleased with Friday’s announcement as it will go a long way to addressing the need for services in the municipality.
Last month, McLeod presented council with A Social Profile of Delta in 2017. The comprehensive 60-page report is the first step in the municipality’s effort to integrate social planning into Delta’s policy and decision making. It examines 131 different organizations (about 100 of which are located in Delta) serving residents in areas such as health, public safety, children and youth, seniors, housing, and inclusion, and housing for all residential groups was identified one of three critical services Delta lacks.
“It was raised as a service issue – an area of need – to be aware of moving forward, that there are no emergency housing options in Delta currently, and the transition house will be one of those,” McLeod said, adding that emergency housing is a collective phrase used to describe many forms of short-term housing, including cold weather shelters, care housing for youth.
“This is one of the needs we had, and I can kind of check it off the list now.”
Previously, she explained, women and children in Delta fleeing domestic abuse were directed to transition housing in Richmond or Surrey – if there were no beds available, they could end up as far away as Aldergrove or Chilliwack.
Harvie, speaking at the announcement on behalf of Mayor Lois Jackson, said having to uproot their families and move to a community so far away meant some women would choose instead to stay in abusive situations, and that having a transition house in Delta would make it easier for those who need it to seek help.
“In the past, when these situations arose in Delta, our residents were transported to a safe place but perhaps far from their supports, schools and homes. This created an additional barrier for those who needed assistance the most. With the addition of a transition house in Delta, we have a much-needed option for these women and their children.”
The house will also allow Delta to return the favour and help women and children from other communities.
“Transition houses, when they’re set up in communities, do not serve the needs of just that community. They become part of a larger network…because for some families it’s beneficial for them not to be housed where they are from.,” McLeod said.
“What this does is it increases eight more rooms for that network. It’ll be our needs and others sharing as we move forward with that house. So I do think it will be a significant impact on the need in Delta, and kind of a payback for all the times we used others.”
With files from Grace Kennedy