Victoria women say transitional housing rule pushed them into homelessness
A Victoria woman is on the brink of homelessness after maxing out her stay at a transitional home.
“I’ve lived in my car before and I don’t want to do it again,” Robin — not her real name — said in an interview on Monday
Robin escaped domestic abuse, so CTV News is using a pseudonym for her safety.
She was told she had to be out of Harrison Place by Tuesday. The transitional home is operated by Victoria Women’s Transition House (VWTH), which put a three-year limit on how long people can live there.
“I need to find affordable, accessible housing,” said Robin, who has limited mobility. “My time is up.”
CTV News spoke with two other women who ended up in a similar position after living at Harrison Place. They said there are several others like them.
“[Harrison Place staff] literally helped me pack my vehicle knowing I was going to sleep in my vehicle,” said Rhonda Savard, whose three years expired last September.
“We’re vulnerable women and we need to be treated as gentle as gentle can be," Savard added. "And that’s not gentle."
'RIDICULOUSLY INEFFICIENT SYSTEM'
Victoria Women’s Transition House said there are many women waiting to get into Harrison Place.
“If we didn’t have an end date, then our program changes completely,” said Makenna Reilly, executive director for VWTH. “We become affordable housing rather than a transitional housing program.”
Many women succeed in finding housing after completing the transitional program, Reilly said.
“I don’t think I’m set to start advocating that we extend the stays until we have more evidence that it really is needed,” she said.
Another former resident said she ended up living in a friend’s trailer last spring after spending three years at Harrison Place.
“Why are you putting somebody out on the street with a pat on the back and a see-you-later as you’re opening the door for the next client?” the woman told CTV News
Homeless advocate Nicole Chaland said VWTH should take Vancouver Island’s housing shortage into account and rethink the three-year cap.
“This is a ridiculously inefficient system,” Chaland said. “To actually be spending money on transition programs and the end outcome being people are homeless? That’s dumb.”
FINDING A 'UNICORN' HOME
BC Housing funds some VWTH programs. The government agency said it does not provide operational funding for Harrison Place and therefore is not responsible for choosing how long people can stay.
“It is essential for housing providers to move residents through the various levels of the housing continuum in order to provide access to the many women that need it,” a BC Housing spokesperson said in a statement.
“[Staff] provide a range of services aimed at helping women rebuild their lives, including housing supports.”
Robin said some help was offered, but the onus was on her to find an accessible home with rent that didn’t eat up too much of her social assistance funding.
“It’s a unicorn. They don’t exist,” Chaland said.
While homelessness is highly visible in some cases, Robin said stories like hers are often hidden.
“The housing crisis is far larger than people realize,” she said. “I’m just a throwaway because I don’t make enough money.”
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