Women and children fleeing violence in the Elk Valley will be more comfortable after renovations to the local shelter.
It has been closed since early November for the refurbishment, which was due to be completed by Christmas.
“We basically did a complete renovation,” said Elkford Women’s Task Force Executive Director Kim Bauer, speaking on behalf of Elk Valley Safe Homes.
“We changed windows, we changed flooring, we did a bathroom renovation, a complete kitchen renovation, we upgraded lighting, we upgraded locks – pretty much everything from top to bottom.
“For our clients, it’s a space that will function better. Our kitchen was original… so our appliances were older, our countertops were not in the best shape (and) our cabinets were starting to break.
“All in all, it will be a nicer space but it will also function better.”
The renovation was funded by BC Housing and completed by Up the Valley Construction, which donated labour to the project.
During the closure, Safe Homes continued to provide outreach services to families in the Valley, transferring those needing emergency housing to the Cranbrook shelter or hotels.
Bauer said services are free and available 24 hours a day, year round.
“We provide shelter, transportation, support, information, referrals, safety planning and accompaniment to the women accessing our program,” she said.
“Women needing services do not have to be staying in the Safe Home to access services.”
In 2018, Elk Valley Safe Homes received more than 1200 referrals for service and provided over 1000 shelter nights.
Bauer said demand was on par with previous years, however, shelter nights were slightly lower due to the renovation.
“On average over the last three years we’ve seen 1200-1400 shelter nights a year,” she said.
“It’s always busy but we tend to find that early January is busier. I think folks try to stay together over the holidays and make things work out.”
Bauer has worked in the anti-violence sector since 1992 and believes there is growing awareness of violence in relationships.
She said what was once a private matter is now being talked about publicly.
“Several high profile cases of domestic homicide in B.C. and Canada over the last 25 years have brought about reviews with regard to where the system has failed victims and recommendations looking at how to better support survivors of relationship violence,” she said.
“We’ve learned that coordination is key to supporting our clients and that when they are well supported they are empowered.”
Going forward, Safe Homes hopes to enhance services for women accessing its program, which currently includes on call staffing 24 hours a day.
“We’ve recently made an application to obtain 24-hour a day in-house staffing and to provide Second Stage Programming at Chrysalis House,” said Bauer.
“We’ve recently been the recipient of an extremely generous donation of $150,000 from Bearspaw Community First Society that will allow us to enhance our services.”
Some of that funding will go toward Safe Homes’ Elk Valley PEACE program, which provides support to children aged three to 18 who have experienced violence in the home and/or a difficult parental separation.
It also offers a rental assistance program for women fleeing violence.