Safe house for women fleeing homelessness, domestic violence opening soon in Victoria

Safe house for women fleeing homelessness, domestic violence opening soon in Victoria

In the coming months, Anawim Companion Society is opening the door to a new house for women in Victoria — a 4,500-square-foot, two-storey dwelling offering refuge from homelessness and domestic violence.

“To hear the number of women that are on the street, the number of women in difficult situations, the need is evident,” said Sieuwke Stoppel, director of Women’s Services at Anawim.

“We want to be a solution to that issue and to be able to provide as much support as we can to as many women as we can.”

The non-profit teamed up with Aryze Developments, as well as several foundations and individual donors, to bring the seven-bedroom, three-bath residence to fruition.

It was a feat set in motion back in 2017, according to Anawim President Dan Greco in an interview with CHEK News Tuesday.

“This is the genesis of those deliberations back in the day, and here we are today. A very generous woman donated this property, and with that donation, we were able to hire Aryze and go through the re-zoning process, and we got the property re-zoned in 2021,” said Greco.

“We brought on a really talented architect early on to work with us and the housing society because we felt beautiful and creative architecture can be healing,” said Aryze’s Luke Mari.

‘It’s humbling,’ says project manager

Anawim takes inspiration from its long-established men’s house, using a ‘Family Model’ that sees residents participate in daily activities — whether in the communal kitchen or back courtyard.

“I’ve been starting to meet some different potential residents, and I’m very excited. Some people will stay for a few weeks, some will stay for a few months, and some will stay for a few years. We want them to feel they have everything they need before they move on to their own independence,” said Stoppel.

“It’s humbling. It’s a really great project to be a part of,” added Aryze Construction Project Manager Michelle Griffin, who estimates about $300,000 in donations was raised.

“It could be one decision that you make, one life-changing moment that makes you need a resource like this.”

The space is safe and substance-free — and comes with all the bells and whistles to make residents feel welcome, with wrap-around services to guide these women to success.

“These are often people who are disconnected from their networks and their community, so they really need co-support spaces here, and this place was designed with natural light, windows, a courtyard,” said Mari.

“We got new fixtures that are pretty funky and different. It helped elevate us to a level we weren’t expecting to get to,” exclaimed Griffin.

Now, all that’s left is adding some finishing touches to make this house a home.

“We really want to send a message to the women that are out there that we are here and we are open, and we are going to welcome you very soon — so just hold on, we’re coming,” added Stoppel.

More information about Anawim, including how people can help and donate to the non-profit, is online here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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