By Andru McCracken
The Province announced 14 units of affordable housing for women in children for Valemount November 25. The units will be managed by Robson Valley Community Services, augmenting their Safe Shelter program. Across the province, it’s part of 260 new spaces for women and children in 11 buildings.
Robson Valley Community Services’ Executive Director Lina Thompson was in Victoria for the announcement and personally thanked Minister of Housing Selina Robinson, for supporting the project.
Thompson said the project has been especially designed for the area and takes into account how Valemount’s precariously low vacancy rates factor into family violence.
“We’re the only project that is listed as affordable housing for women and children,” she said. “Here in the North you just can’t have safe shelter. Affordable housing is non-existent. It sets women up for going back to unsafe situations because there is nowhere else to go.”
Thompson said because the project is unique it is an opportunity for Valemount to lead the province in best practices.
“It’s not just short-term, but long-term. You don’t need to leave. The only mandatory requirement is that you identify as female. You may or may not have children,” she said.
Despite the funding announcement, there is a significant amount of work required to make the area ready, including rezoning the land.
The affordable housing is just one part of the project that includes a range of services from daycare to supported child development to infant development.
“It will be a one-stop shop for families,” she said.
A personal connection
Thompson brought her son Malcolm with her to the announcement.
It marked almost 20 years to the day that she fled her husband with a year and a half old child, pregnant with a second child. For leaving, she was excommunicated from her Jehovah Witness church and no longer allowed contact with her family.
“I was not only on my own with two babies, but I had no family support,” she said. “If it wasn’t for community, I would have been lost.”
Thompson said bringing better services for women fleeing violence in the valley feels like coming full circle.
When Thompson met the minister, she introduced her son.
“There were lots of tears; she gave us each a hug,” she said.
“It’s been a healing journey.”
A real need
Thompson said that Robson Valley Community Services gets phone calls almost daily in the winter.
“I’m new here, I am always confused how you just end up in Valemount. [But people have] nowhere to go; it’s cold,” she said. “We don’t have a shelter here; women and children can’t get support services.”
Thompson said the new facility isn’t a solution for all the problems facing Valemount; she knows there is more to do.
“We are painfully aware there is a need for services for men,” she said.
Thompson said adult mental health services has a significant waiting list and then only open for 30-minute appointments.
“Men come to us, but we don’t have a men’s program,” she said. “It’s tough.”
Thompson said her organization is pursuing a dedicated drop-in centre for seniors and families, as well as a “Men’s Shed.”
Village of Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson congratulated the group for moving the project ahead.
“I am extremely pleased the Province and Robson Valley Community Services are advancing on this important development,” he said.