PROGRESS 2023: New women’s shelter in Kitimat with 44 units set to open 2024

Construction of a new women’s shelter in Kitimat is set to open in Jan. 2024, and will include transition housing, second-stage units and affordable housing. (Photo provided by the Tamitik Status of Women)Construction of a new women’s shelter in Kitimat is set to open in Jan. 2024, and will include transition housing, second-stage units and affordable housing. (Photo provided by the Tamitik Status of Women)
Construction of new women’s shelter in Kitimat. The new facility is set to open in Jan. 2024, and will include transition units, affordable housing and a 24-hour childcare centre. Photo taken March 22, 2023 (Hunter Wild).Construction of new women’s shelter in Kitimat. The new facility is set to open in Jan. 2024, and will include transition units, affordable housing and a 24-hour childcare centre. Photo taken March 22, 2023 (Hunter Wild).
Construction of a new women’s shelter in Kitimat is set to open in Jan. 2024, and will include transition housing, second stage units and affordable housing. Photo provided by the Tamitik Status of Women. 2023Construction of a new women’s shelter in Kitimat is set to open in Jan. 2024, and will include transition housing, second stage units and affordable housing. Photo provided by the Tamitik Status of Women. 2023
Michelle Martins is the executive director of the Tamitik Status of Women Association. (Photo submitted)Michelle Martins is the executive director of the Tamitik Status of Women Association. (Photo submitted)

The Tamitik Status of Women Association (TSW) is excited to be expanding its transition and second stage housing, as well as adding affordable housing units in what’s being called the capital project, set to open in January of 2024.

This is especially exciting in an area where women in Kitimat face higher gender wage gaps than at the provincial or federal level, which may prevent them from fleeing abusive relationships, said Michelle Martins, executive director of TSW.

Martins said that, while there are positives to the industry, when male-dominated “large-scale industrial projects come to a small community, it is unavoidable that it won’t affect the socio-economic landscape … Often women are in the middle of that sort of thing.”

Some of the wage gap issues may also be caused by a lack of affordable childcare options, which prevents women from being able to enter the workforce.

TSW is the only shelter provider in Kitimat. “[The Dunmore Place transition house has] been running since 1996. A woman accessed it the very first night we were open. So there’s always been a need,” Martins said.

TSW currently offers eight funded beds in its Dunmore Place transition housing and six second-stage units in Douglas Place, a converted motel.

The capital project (an official name is still pending) will double the capacity of the second-stage units to 12 and have 12 transition beds and 20 new affordable housing units, totalling 44 units.

Transition housing offers a safe place for women and their children needing emergency shelter due to fleeing an abusive relationship or violence. TSW also provides counselling services, outreach programs and other support resources for women and their children.

Second-stage units are longer-term housing units, typically up to 24 months, for women working to become more independent. At this time, TSW’s second-stage units only have space for women and not their children. However, women can have their children in the capital project’s new location.

“Second-stage is not a normal tenancy. It’s considered a program. Non-profits that run these types of housing units are able to put certain parameters in place that a normal landlord can’t, say, for instance, no alcohol or guests must be pre-approved or anything related to safety in that respect … We do tailored programming for the women to meet their specific needs to ensure they’ll be successful tenants and be prepared to rent in the private market,” Martins said.

Due to unaffordable rent increases in Kitimat’s private market, TSW is finding that some women ready to move on can’t afford to do so. This is why TSW’s new affordable housing units are so critical and welcomed.

The affordable housing units will be for women and their families requiring a more permanent solution, whether low-income, individuals with disabilities, or those still working through a crisis.

There will be increased security measures at the capital project, including fob keys which only give individuals access to their floor. There will also be a 24-hour daycare with 36 daytime and 24 overnight spaces available for children.

Martins said that for almost 10 years, the Haisla Nation has been funding one of the beds at TSW so that they can better assist Haisla women in need. Haisla art and culture will also be implemented into the daycare program, including traditional foods and having Elders on-site to engage with the children. TSW hopes the daycare can help facilitate reconciliation by removing early childhood biases and internalized racism.

TSW offers additional services beyond housing for women in crisis, including rental assistance, homeless prevention, counselling and outreach programs. They also work to reduce poverty by providing a free store, furniture exchange and a food share program.

TSW offers a year-round day shelter and an extreme weather shelter through fall and winter. Both shelters opened this past year in 2022 and are available to anyone in need of short-term shelter.

“[Our day shelter] opened last June in partnership with the District of Kitimat and BC Housing. [The day shelter] compliments our extreme weather shelter, especially on the weekends,” she said.

“We started opening on the weekend in February, so when the weather shelter closes in the morning, it gives those clients somewhere to go to have a coffee or some breakfast while they wait for everything else to start opening up. It keeps them out of the elements.”

The capital project build is at 461 Quatsino Boulevard in Kitimat and will be open to all women and their children, including trans, non-binary and two-spirit people next year.

See an e-edition of PROGRESS 2023 here.


@HunterWilld
hunter.wild@northernsentinel.com

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