As many of us in the world experienced, COVID-19 was crushing for our women’s night shelter and clients.
Due to poor building infrastructure and staffing challenges we had no choice but to close down the shelter at the end of March. The few remaining staff continued to come in twice a day to provide meals and what services and supplies we could through the door. We helped clients set up and take down their tents every day around the shelter until we were able to set up our sanctioned tenting site in the CVRD parking lot in cooperation with the Cowichan Housing Association’s task force.
I remember so well the initial overwhelming defeat I felt at putting our most vulnerable women in tents in an exposed parking lot. It was the best we could do, but at the same time felt like we should be doing so much more for our women who are desperately needing safety and stability.
Yet the change that happened was remarkable. The tents provided our women with autonomy and privacy for the first time. They were able to come and go from the tent site, or go in their tent and close their door when they needed privacy. As the site was 24/7, outreach services were able to come to the tent site to provide services. Clients found themselves with time and space to settle and start some recreational hobbies – during the summer we had the most incredible green space within the tent site, completely transforming the bare concrete parking lot.
This was a vast difference to typical night shelters where clients all congregate in one large common area and need to remain on guard throughout a stay – to guard their belongings, guard their safety and self in an open room with 15 other individuals they may or may not know. So it has been truly incredible to see the transformation of our open physical space into individual private sleeping spaces, especially as we are now shifting from a night shelter to 24/7 services.
A huge, warm, and heartfelt thank you to Peter Wilson from DIV1 Projects Ltd for his consultation, design, and build of our new shelter sleeping spaces for our women. Once again we are blown away by thoughtful engagement and generosity from community members to help lift our women towards dignity, and safety.
We absolutely could not provide the services we do without the generosity from our community members. Please consider donating now (www.cwav.org) to support the renovation of the women’s night shelter. Thank you so much from the whole team at the shelter and CWAV. We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
– Adria Borghesan