Women & Families Centre, Vancouver, Canada
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World Housing is partnering with Streetohome to help complete the funding for construction of the UGM Women & Families Centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Men are usually more visible on the street, but we know nearly 30% of Metro Vancouver’s homeless are women and in desperate need. A recent report by the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network showed that many women are part of the ‘hidden’ homeless, tragically forced to turn to desperate measures to escape the streets, like couch surfing or trading sex for somewhere to sleep. They may also be fleeing gender-based violence or trapped in sex trafficking situations. This new facility will change lives and help build better futures for our city’s most vulnerable women and mothers by empowering them to transform their lives – giving them an opportunity to break free from the devastating cycles of addiction, poverty, homelessness and the sex trade. With safe housing, these women and children can begin the road to recovery and self-sufficiency, changing the trajectory of their future.
The first steps to recovery for women begin with the move off the streets to a safe home where mothers can maintain their role in parenting where otherwise children would be removed from the mother’s care. This makes it possible for mothers with newborn infants or larger families to have a home with enough space for everyone to stay together. Length of stay varies depending on each individual’s progress. Length of stay ranges between 2 to 5 years, but the goal for each family is complete recovery and access to a supportive home until they are ready to move to independent housing. Women come from various outreach programs in the Downtown Eastside (DTES ) with a major partner being BC Women’s Hospital who directs new mothers out of their pre-natal with addictions program. Women who are not provided this opportunity would have their newborn infants removed from their care, and would remain in the downward cycle of addiction. With the children well-cared for, women living in the Women & Families Centre will be able to turn their attention to their recovery, job training, finding employment, and connecting with key services, moving towards self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. The center provides a comprehensive continuum of care – offering a range of services (including childcare) under one roof, ensuring women are supported every step of the way on their journey to recovery. Currently, there is no supportive housing on Vancouver's Downtown East Side that enables women with children to address and continue their recovery, while living in a real home where they are able to grow their strength and independence. The purpose-built facility will fill a gap in the current addiction recovery and homelessness services system, preventing many women, and women with children from falling through the cracks between detox and recovery. This new community will provide the opportunity for mothers and children to live together as well as work towards reuniting children with their mothers in cases where they have been removed from their care. Giving children and families a strong foundation to build a better future together.
"When I was homeless it was horrible, but my life was transformed at UGM and I know this new building will help others like me"
-- single mother Emily Surrette, on B.C. streets for more than 2 years.