New questions are being raised about the safety of women fleeing domestic violence and how they could be turned away from a local hotel.
The Comox Valley Transition Society has a shelter called Lilly House for women and children fleeing abuse, but many victims might not seek help there and try to go to a local hotel for safety instead.
“I hate the thought of somebody local seeking safety and being turned away when there’s a real need for a refuge and they haven’t found it or don’t know where to find it elsewhere,” said Heather Ney, executive director of the society.
“If someone is in high need of a safe place to go in a conflict situation or where there’s domestic violence, and their safety plan might be to go to a hotel, but then they’re turned away,” she said.
The concerns arose after a CHEK News story Monday involving Cumberland resident Darcy Jamieson.
She booked a night at the Best Western Westerly Hotel in Courtenay last week for a quiet, single-night getaway but was turned away at check-in and told she couldn’t stay there because she was a local resident.
“It made me question had I been in real trouble, that would have been my last option for a bed that night,” Jamieson said Monday.
The BC Hotel Association says it’s not uncommon for hotels to have a “no local” policy.
Westerly General Manager Jamie Lewis said the rule stems from numerous previous incidents of locals booking rooms and large parties ensuing, then refunds having to be given to other guests.
Lewis says Jamieson booked on a third-party website but had she phoned the hotel to explain her situation, the result could have been different.
“We have to use our own judgment on these things. You don’t want to say no to somebody if they’re really in a troubled way,” he said.
Lewis added the hotel is not anti-local and that staff assess each guest on a case-by-case basis. However, he could not explain why Jamieson wasn’t given further consideration at check-in time.
Ney says Lilly House has 14 beds that are always full and that roughly once a month, the CVTS assists a victim of abuse by putting them up in a different local hotel that they deal with regularly.
She sympathizes with problems faced by hotels but said visitors likely cause as many problems, adding she still worries about the victim of domestic abuse who might show up in need and get turned away.