(Guest blog post by Patti MacAhonic, Executive Director of the Ann Davis Transition Society. The Society provides education, prevention, and support services to those affected by abuse or violence. This year they are organizing the Women’s March Fraser Valley on January 20.)
After a long day, as I leave my office into the cold, uninviting night, lock the door behind me and turn around, there’s a young woman with a shopping cart hiding in the shadows, her meager belongings folded neatly and her face painted with a terrified look. She’s just been kicked out of her house by her partner and has nowhere to go. There are no beds for women open and the transition houses are once again full.
I hear loud voices in our parking lot, and I go out to investigate. I witness a couple arguing and invite them in from the cold. It’s -10 degrees, an unusually cold early evening. They tell me their situation: The woman has just been released from the hospital for serious medical conditions, he has been released from prison. They have a welfare check for rent, but no phone or vehicle to find a place. They reveal that they once had a home, good life, jobs, and relative stability; but he decided to sell drugs (he takes full accountability) and got caught, went to jail—his house now confiscated—and here they are. She will not last the night outside in the bitter cold, and there are no places for women to find refuge. I borrow my co-workers car and drive them to a cheap motel for a place to rest their heads. The owner gives them two days for the price of one so they can line up a rental.
(Photo credit: www.homesforwomen.ca)
On her way to our thrift shop which houses our Bad Date Program, my outreach worker witnesses a woman being attacked in the alley. Standing only 5 ft. tall, she rushes to help and chases off the two assailants who had robbed and beaten the woman. She brings her to our office for an emergency counselling session. The woman refuses to call the RCMP, which is her right.
The accounts I’ve illustrated are but one week in Chilliwack. We have over 200 women on our waitlist for Stopping the Violence Counselling. There are five emergency beds at the Salvation Army for women and two transition houses for women and children in the community. Nothing low barrier, and the five emergency beds fill up quickly. It’s heartbreaking to witness this happening on a daily basis when we are supposed to be the help, and we can’t. There are simply not enough resources to meet the need.
The impossibly high cost of rent is having a cascading effect across the province, principle among them, keeping women and children in transition houses for longer than the contracted 30 days. It’s quite common for them to stay between 60 and 90 days in search of affordable housing. This traps women in dangerous and violent situations, or drives them out to become part of the growing number of homeless women surviving precariously on the streets. In Chilliwack the ratio for homeless women to men is the highest in the province: 37%.
To further exacerbate this growing problem the many camps that were home to homeless women were shut down right as the weather became colder. These closures created a domino effect with multiple camps closing at staggered intervals. The city has been involved in this process, on the sidelines at least. Frontline workers report that there has been a notable spike in overdose events after the camps began closing—exact correlation is difficult to determine. Chilliwack had the highest percentage increase in overdose deaths in the Fraser Health Authority region in 2017, along with some of the highest rates of overdoses at the ER.Read more
A new year brings a fresh start and renewed vigour to the fight for justice and human rights. Pivot is looking forward to continuing its advocacy and empowering the communities we serve; but in 2018, we're also individually committed to specific goals that will help uplift those struggling with addiction, homelessness, discrimination, and violence. Please join us in our fight for equality and commit to positive social change.
Darcie Bennett, Director of Strategy
"My social justice goal for 2018 is to see BC’s Human Rights Code amended to prohibit discrimination and harassment based on social condition. Social condition refers to the position you occupy in society by virtue of your income level, source of income, housing status, or your level of education. Deep poverty and homelessness are real and specific sources of disadvantage in virtually all aspects of life. Discrimination based on social condition exacerbates inherent harms by intensifying social isolation, by making it more difficult for people to make use of public space, and by putting up barriers to low-income housing and supportive services aimed at people living in poverty.
You can help make a difference by reaching out to your elected representative to make sure they know that British Columbians want our laws to protect people from discrimination based on social condition. You can also stand up for human rights everyday by naming discrimination when you see it in your community."
DJ Larkin, Legal Director
"In 2018, BC has an incredible opportunity to create inclusive and healthy communities. Part of that means ensuring that shelter, housing, and healthcare services are available to everyone in the province. My wish for 2018 is to create a movement of people saying, “Yes in My Backyard” and refusing to see projects halted by fear and discrimination.
You can be a key part of that. Attend your local city council meetings to support shelter, housing, and healthcare services for marginalized members of your community, write to your Member of Legislative Assembly to ask for more services for people in need in your neighbourhood, and listen to people experiencing homelessness, poverty, and addiction. They are the experts in what will make a positive difference in their lives."Read more
This graph was featured in Why we’re doing the Welfare Food Challenge on only $18.00 a week.
This graph was featured in Strings attached: The National Housing Strategy won’t help people struggling with homelessness now.
This map was featured in Ten Year Tent City prevails over City of Vancouver injunction.
This graph was featured in Metro Vancouver homeless count reveals failure of government.
This graph was featured in Metro Vancouver homeless count reveals failure of government.
Ending discrimination on the basis of social condition: The next frontier in the fight for affordable housing
"Social condition is the situation you have in society because of your income, your occupation or your level of education."
(Photo credit: Jackie Dives, West Hastings Street, 2015)
Since Pivot began working on housing issues nearly 15 years ago, we have been calling on the federal and provincial governments to step up and invest in a range of affordable housing options to address a crisis that has evolved alongside our organization. As the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to increase, the research demonstrating that homelessness is akin to a death sentence mounts, and people experiencing homelessness continue to take bold action to stand up for their rights, we are finally starting to see a little bit of action.
In BC, the provincial government has put funding in place for several quick turnaround projects. Service providers are eager to move ahead with desperately needed shelter spaces and modular housing units. We should be celebrating this small victory. Instead, as another winter sets in, projects are being cancelled or delayed as a result of discrimination in municipal public consultation processes.
(Photo credit: Peter Kim, Sugar Mountain tent city, 2017)
While housed people vehemently opposing services for homeless residents in their community is nothing new, it is quickly emerging as one of the biggest barriers to addressing the housing crisis. Municipalities across BC have authority to hold public consultations, and approve or dismiss applications to develop housing using their power over land use and zoning within their jurisdictions. This power, which is well equipped to consider traffic flow, sewers and view corridors, has resulted in a series of poorly managed referendums on whether or not people living in poverty belong in a community.
As a result, tonight when you crawl into bed, there will be vulnerable people including people with disabilities and serious illnesses, seniors, young people who recently left government care, and women fleeing violence, sleeping outside because their neighbours are saying "no" to shelters and housing. Here are a few examples of what is going on around the province this fall:
[ Interactive map ]Read more
(Photo credit: Geoff Webb, members of Anita Place tent city and Pivot Legal Society,
Nov. 27, 2017)
For several months, we have had the honour of standing alongside the residents of Anita Place tent city in Maple Ridge in their fight to protect the only space they can call “home”.
For the second time, the City of Maple Ridge has threatened the residents with eviction by way of injunction; and for the second time, we have worked closely alongside our clients to mount a robust legal defence armed with evidence of the site’s positive impact on people’s health, safety, and sense of community. Last month, yet again, the City reconsidered its approach and decided to adjourn its application.
(Photo credit: Katrina Pacey; Pivot lawyer Anna Cooper and lawyers Raj Mittal, David Wotherspoon, and Marguerite Ethier arriving at BC Supreme Court; Nov. 27, 2017)
During the BC Supreme Court hearing, rather than going to court to argue for the right of Anita Place residents to exist in the encampment, we entered into a consent order with the City of Maple Ridge. This is meant to address some of the immediate life safety concerns at Anita Place and will provide desperately needed resources for residents who have been working hard to keep the camp safe for all. This includes fire-safe tents and tarps, as well as the installation of a modular washroom onsite.Read more