Chilliwack homeless community is 40 per cent women according to the FVRD 2020 Homeless Count. (Black Press file)

Chilliwack has highest rate of homeless women in B.C.: advocate

The FVRD homeless count results this week show that 40 per cent of Chilliwack homeless are women

That women experiencing homelessness in Chilliwack make up forty per cent of the total is no surprise to Patti MacAhonic, executive director of the Ann Davis Transition Society (ADTS).

The 40 per cent rate emerged from the FVRD 2020 Homeless Count results showing the total number of homeless in Chilliwack increased from 221 people in 2017, to 306 in 2020.

“We have the highest rate of homeless women in the entire province, not just the Fraser Valley,” MacAhonic said.

The ADTS official said she’s been trying to sound the alarm about the high proportion of homeless women in Chilliwack since the last official homeless count.

“When the forty per cent stat first came to our attention it was three years ago. We were struggling with it and lobbying for emergency housing. We had women lined up outside our doors,” MacAhonic.

They had to turn them away.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has made things even worse. They’ve seen “safety calls” to ADTS increase by 135 per cent in April, and “crisis calls” went up 43 per cent.

READ MORE: What is Chilliwack doing about housing and homelessness?

A new “rent bank program” is just getting off the ground, MacAhonic noted. The rent bank will be geared to offsetting high rental costs by providing either a bursary or a loan to those eligible.

They are also working on bringing two long-term housing projects to fruition, one with housing for women, and one geared to housing women with children, MacAhonic underlined. That’s on the heels of ADTS opening a women’s centre last year in partnership with BC Housing to get more women off the streets, as well as the operation of the existing transition house for women fleeing domestic violence.

READ MORE: Women’s centre will offer specialized help in Chilliwack

Funding from donations and volunteer labour allows ADTS to offer tools and resources like outreach services and a Bad Date program, from their thrift store, Ann’s Treasures and Thrift, where women can anonymously report incidents violence at the hands of bad dates, she said. The bad date reports can sometimes lead to RCMP efforts to get the most violent cases dealt with since Chilliwack has an extremely high rate of violent crime.

Local service providers like ADTS, Salvation Army, Ruth and Naomi’s Mission, have been working closely with City of Chilliwack, BC Housing and other partners under the aegis of the Chilliwack Healthier Community network. About 100 people from the streets of Chilliwack moved into brand-new supportive housing units built by BC Housing in the past year as a result, as well as many more shelter spaces created since 2018.

“But despite all that we’re still seeing more homeless women,” MacAhonic said.

A high percentage have mental health issues.

“Being homeless is dangerous, we know that and many people medicate to stay awake and stay safe. They are really at risk out there.”

Studies show that most homeless women have experienced domestic or sexual violence.

“So permanent housing is critical, and without access to it, a survivor may be forced to stay or return to an abusive partner or live in unsafe conditions.”

The trauma of an abusive relationship has a big impact on a survivor’s likelihood of becoming homeless..

“Domestic violence victims can struggle with anxiety, panic disorder, depression, and substance abuse while also trying to find or maintain safe and stable housing,” MacAhonic said.

“This is unfortunately what we are dealing with.”


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

City of Chilliwackhomeless housingwomen shelters

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Mounties seeking witnesses to Saturday shooting

Police say the victim isn’t providing investigators with information

B.C.’s virtual ‘SoundON’ concerts kick off with sounds of Surrey festival

‘FVDED Broadcast’ from nightclub on July 18, as charity event

South Surrey mom frustrated by city’s response after son, 10, has severe reaction to park grass 

City of Surrey parks manager says ‘potential steps’ to address concern under review

Surrey council approves $150 FOI fee for attendance requests at city facilities

This came before council’s meeting on Monday July 13

Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, also a first for B.C.

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Thousands of dollars of stolen rice traced to Langley warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

UPDATE: Mission spray park closed after children suffer swollen eyes, burns

Mission RCMP are investigating incident that injured several children

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

19 times on 19th birthday: Langley teen goes from crutches to conquering Abby Grind

Kaden Van Buren started at midnight on Saturday. By 3 p.m. he had completed the trek 19 times.

Professional basketball in Canada begins return to action with COVID-19 testing

Abbotsford’s Fraser Valley Bandits, six other CEBL teams arrive in Ontario for Summer Series

Most Read