WATCH: Plans for a 15-bed women’s shelter in Duncan have been rejected by the local council even though city staff had recommended approving the project. Duncan city council rejected the application after pushback from residents near the potential site. As Luisa Alvarez tells us, the council is looking at alternatives, but it can’t come soon enough.
Gina Dius is homeless in Duncan and is one of the many vulnerable women looking forward to the possibility of a shelter to go to.
“A lot of us want to get off the street. We just don’t have anywhere to go. I know it’s something that’s needed and I know for myself that I would be there in a heartbeat if it was available,” said Dius.
A 15-bed women-only facility, set to to be run by the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society, was proposed at the site of the former Duncan Primary School. It was supposde to only operate between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. – hours that would not conflict with their neighbours, two schools and a seniors home. But the project still faced strong opposition from residents.
“These kinds of things draw crime and its a very unfortunate fact of the matter,” said Duncan Coun. Sharon Jackson.
At Monday’s contentious meeting where council voted on the proposal, councillors Michelle Bell and Michelle Staples recused themselves from the vote stating conflicts of interest.
None of the councillors left moved the motion so then Jackson moved a motion to deny the application.
“My job is to represent the people that voted me in and I believe that I’ve done that,” said Jackson.
It passed three to one with Jackson, Coun. Tom Duncan, and Coun. Roger Bruce voting for and Mayor Phil Kent voting against.
“I think its absolutely needed. These are probably the most vulnerable citizens, that we have some women that can’t find proper shelter, and I think as a temporary use for this facility, it was appropriate,” said Mayor Phil Kent.
Having the shelter application shot down was a disappointing result for those directly affected.
“It’s hurtful. I used to be treated with respect by these same people before I was homeless and now I’m treated like I’m worthless,” said Dius.
It was also disappointing for Minister Keith Simmonds from Duncan United Church. He was a strong proponent of the project.
“We did everything that they said we were supposed to do. We came up with an answer to every question they had and we sat in that meeting. It was clear they weren’t listening to us anyways. They never had instead they chose to throw these women under the bus,” said Simmonds.
Now council is looking at alternatives and the possibility of a mobile shelter.
“I want to get some corporate sponsorships for trailers with some bathroom facilities maybe some laundry. There’s a number of properties just at the edge of town that is not in a residential area that this place could go where these women can be safe and warm,” said Jackson.
But with no concrete timeline set for that solution, Dius and other women like her will stay on the streets clinging to the hope that when winter does come there will be somewhere warm to go.