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New West Kelowna women’s shelter provides safe reprieve from abuse

‘When the time is right, give us a call,’the new shelter offers low-barrier access to safety
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Kelowna Women’s Shelter staff (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

A new women’s shelter in West Kelowna is opening its doors and arms to those in need.

The new shelter will provide a much needed safe space for women and children who are fleeing abuse.

The location of the new facility is kept private, in an effort to protect those are accessing the site and its services.

Each part of the new four story building was built using a trauma informed lens, said Allison McLaughlan, executive director of the Kelowna Womens Shelter.

McLaughlan explained that implementing trauma-informed care into each aspect of the building’s design and decoration will help women and their children to feel comfortable while rebuilding their lives.

An example of the care and attention to detail undertaken by the team responsible for the shelter, is the prevalence of indoor windows. In addition to creating a feeling of openness, the windows are specifically positioned to let mothers do laundry, cook, rest and eat while being able to watch their kids in the playroom.

McLaughlan said that as a result of past trauma, many mothers are afraid to leave their children alone, even for a moment.

Abuse comes in many forms including physical, emotional, financial and psychological, often resulting in isolation and a lack of confidence, in addition to trauma.

She explained that for some women, even if they want to reach out, they do not know where to start. That is where the women’s shelter plays a role. Women are able to call the shelter at any time and receive support, even if they are not quite ready to leave.

“We will help you reach whatever goals you need at that time,”said McLaughlan.

“When the time is right, give us a call.”

There are 10 transitional housing rooms available at the new shelter, which will be used by women and children in need of immediate and emergent housing.

While the facility is drug and alcohol free, people with substance use disorders will not be turned away for that reason alone. The shelter employs a “low barrier framework” and works to help

After a living in the transitional housing suites for a month, women and children will then be transferred into what is referred to as a second stage unit, which is more similar to an apartment and allows families to adapt to a new sense of normalcy and security. At the shelter, women and children are able to work with support workers and counsellors to help them gain confidence and independence.

Despite the need for second stage housing, there are currently no facilities or programming of the sort in Kelowna or West Kelowna. The new shelter will bring 32 much needed second stage units to the region.

However, McLaughlan said that despite the additional space and for women and children in need, it is not enough.

She said that every single shelter in Canada turns away women and children in need due to a lack of space, funding and supports.

“I can fill shelters as fast as you can build them, but that is not getting to the root cause of the issue.” She said that society needs to shift and focus on preventing abuse, rather than reacting to it. McLaughlan points to education, social supports and policy and legal reform as systemic changes that need to take place to address abuse.

The shelter is funded by BC housing and the federal government while the social supports available to those using the facility are largely paid for by donors.

“We could not provide these services without donations,” said McLaughlan.

To learn more and donate to the women’s shelter visit kelownawomensshelter.com. People can also support the shelter by shopping at and donating to the Women’s Shelter thrift store in downtown Kelowna. Women staying at the shelter are able to shop in the thrift store for free and all proceeds made from the shop are used to fund programming and supports.

To access immediate help call 250-763-1040 or text 250-970-0704.


@Rangers_mom
Jacqueline.Gelineau@kelownacapnews.com

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Jacqueline Gelineau

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