From the outside, the stark blue North Cowichan women’s shelter looks every bit a cold former concession stand.

But step inside, past the bags and belongings of the homeless women who stay here, leaves visitors to it wide-eyed to the home created by hundreds of hours of volunteer labour.

“It’s better than anything I expected,” said one visitor to the shelter’s open house Thursday.

“Yeah with all this food and clothing and showers, it’s wonderful,” said another.

One month into operation, staff at the temporary shelter being run by Cowichan Women Against Violence said its turned into the success story they were hoping for. In the past few days, the 15 beds have been full night after night. And by keeping clients away during the day, staff said the daycare next door is more accepting of the shelter’s presence.

“I think it’s just a big weight lifted off a lot of people’s shoulders,” said staff member Adria Borghesan.

“No longer people are living day to day. You know their entire day spent trying to find out what they’re doing for the evening for where they will stay or where they will go.”

“We are recognizing that there was definitely a need here,” Cowichan Women Against Violence’s Executive Director Debbie Berg.

“So it just reassures us that what we fought for was important.”

The planned shelter was shot down three times before in Duncan as neighbours raised opposition to it near their homes. When a concession stand across from the Island Savings Centre was offered up and North Cowichan approved a temporary use permit, volunteers overhauled it in a hurry and women were situated by Christmas.

Volunteer Susan Harrison said the shelter was looking for help on the renovations.

“So we were able to jump in with some donated paint and some materials,” she said.

The temporary shelter will be open through the end of March to house and feed the Cowichan Valley’s Homeless Women overnight. With continued community support, they hope to reopen again in the fall.

Skye Ryan