North Cowichan council approves emergency shelter for homeless women


WATCH: A controversial emergency shelter for women in the Cowichan Valley that’s been quashed twice already after community outcry has just been approved by North Cowichan council. The permit to operate an old concession stand as a warm place to sleep and provide hot meals for women in need was approved Wednesday after a public hearing that saw a crowd full of supporters urge councillors to allow the project. Skye Ryan reports.

Nerves were running high Tuesday as supporters of a proposed women’s shelter entered North Cowichan council chambers.

Their previous attempts to set up an emergency shelter in Duncan have been shot down twice already by community opposition to their proposed sites and there was fear that could happen again in North Cowichan.

“We need council’s support and leadership today to make this shelter a reality,” Melaina Patenaude with United Way Central Vancouver Island said.

The proposed site on University Way is an old concession stand owned by the Cowichan Valley School District. It has drawn criticism as it is next to the Island Savings Centre and near a children’s daycare.

“This couldn’t be a better proposal. There were two other ones, but, well they failed,” Keith Simmons, pastor at Duncan United Church, said.

The councillors and the mayor gave their support and approved a temporary-use permit for the shelter that would offer homeless Cowichan women a warm place to sleep and get a meal between 5 p.m. and 9 .m.

“I’m just sad that it took this long,” said North Cowichan Coun. Debra Toporowski.

“That’s why I’m so proud of my council. It was a unanimous decision all the way through and it worked really, really well,” North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said.

Cowichan Women Against Violence, which will be running the 15-bed emergency shelter hope to have it up and running by Dec. 20, before Christmas.

“I’ve seen so many women in these kinds of situations and to have a place to go is just amazing. So yeah. Very emotional,” said Debbie Berg, executive director of Cowichan Women Against Violence, said.


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