'A stressful time' for Delta transition house

It’s already a stressful time for women fleeing abuse and COVID-19 has increased the worry, but a Delta transition house is finding ways to get by during the pandemic.

Its exact location not disclosed, W.I.N.G.S. (Women in Need Gaining Strength) opened Delta’s first transition house in 2017 in North Delta, called Azure Place.

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It’s a first stage transition house by the organization which also provides transition house services in New Westminster.

Prior to the pandemic, Azure Place was working at capacity but was able to expand its number of beds from eight to 12.

Transition homes provide emotional support, crisis intervention, safety planning and temporary accommodation. First stage home stays typically last 30 days. The facilities provide help accessing support services and housing, financial, medical, counseling and legal assistance.

When it opened, it was reported that more than 12,300 women and children were assisted by provincially-funded transition houses, second-stage housing and safe homes.

In collaboration with a North Delta church, W.I.N.G.S. last year began using a spare house on the church property for second stage housing, where vulnerable women and children can stay for up to a year.

Executive director Lorrie Wasyliw in an email noted all first stage transition houses in B.C. have been declared as essential services, so they have continued to stay open to receive and support new clients.

They have implemented measures to accommodate the need for safety from exposure, such as masks, gloves and constant disinfecting.

While they have been able to access a limited amount of those supplies and are waiting for replenishment supplies from B.C. Housing, they have also pursued other sources, said Wasyliw.

Meantime, meals are being prepared and served according to a social distancing framework.

“We have reduced the number of residents we can have at any given time to meet the social distancing guidelines. BC Housing has booked suites in a hotel on our behalf so we can place families safely there. We have used that option twice so far. Along with our regular crisis line, we are making arrangements to open a crisis text line so we can continue to respond to women who are unable to leave an unsafe situation at this time,” she added.

“It has been a stressful time. We had a significant scare as several individuals became ill with potential COVID symptoms and we moved to a self-isolating status,” Wasyliw said.

“The good news is that we were finally added to the list for eligible testing over the Easter weekend and were able to confirm that both these individuals were negative for the virus. We are doing all we can to protect the safety of everyone who comes into the house as well as the staff.”

The provincial government this week announced it has secured nearly 300 additional spaces in communities throughout B.C. for people leaving violent or unstable situations, with more spaces to come.

These are in addition to more than 100 transition houses and safe homes that the province funds on an ongoing basis.

"Domestic and sexual abuse is not a private matter to be kept behind closed doors. Violence should never be tolerated - not during this pandemic and not ever. It's wrong, and we will be there for people who need our help and a safe place to go, day or night," said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, in a news release.

Information on safe homes is also available on the BC Housing website: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/women-fleeing-violence/transition-houses-safe-homes.

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