Volunteers convert old building into Cowichan women’s shelter


WATCH: Volunteers in the Cowichan Valley are working hard to turn an old concession stand into a 15-bed emergency shelter for women. The bare-bones building is being transformed into a safe warm place for those in need and as Skye Ryan reports, with just days away from opening, the big push is on to get it ready in time.

The rush to unload carloads of donations and set up a 15-bed women’s shelter by Thursday has Cowichan volunteers in a flurry of pre-Christmas spirit.

“I think everyone that I’ve seen has just really had a strong desire to pitch in and help out,” said volunteer Adria Borghesan.

“I’ve been thinking about it all weekend,” said volunteer Chris Smith.

“I’m excited and nervous and just excited to be a part of it.”

For Smith, volunteering on the project brings a feeling of coming full circle.

“It takes me back in time a bit and reminds me of when things weren’t so easy,” said the Cowichan nurse.

“Fifteen, pregnant, on the streets for three months and then living in a very questionable home.”

It’s women like her that the emergency shelter will be able to help once open.

“It’s an incredible joy to know that we can do this for women,” said Cowichan Women Against Violence’s Executive Director Debbie Berg.

“[Women] who are going to be sleeping out in the rain right now and they’ll be able to come inside.”

The emergency shelter was given a temporary permit by North Cowichan council two weeks ago. Volunteers are now converting the former concession standing, doing everything from painting and plumbing.

“Yeah its not going to look like the Ritz that’s for sure. But it certainly should be homey and comfortable,” said Berg.

Volunteer Greg Gerbos said he is glad he is helping out with all of the work that needs to be done.

“Feels wonderful and it feels so much better because I can do more than just write a cheque,” he said.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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