Over the past two months a growing group of women residents of the Downtown Eastside as well as a coalition of DTES and women-serving organizations have been raising the urgent issue of women’s safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. This has come in response to a number of reported sexual assaults in DTES shelters.
We have been dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in the Downtown Eastside. We have been outraged that all four of our correspondences have been ignored. We have been shocked that our delegation to BC Housing in March 2011 was met with a heavy presence of police and we were shut out from any dialogue on this issue. All this suggests to us that BC Housing as well as city and provincial officials do not consider women’s safety a priority within their funded facilities.
Sexual assaults against women in this neighbourhood are normalized as we have seen with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women. Women should not have to “choose” between the indignity of homelessness and being warehoused in shelters, and the high-risk of assault associated with both. We will not remain silent or complicit and are continuing a grassroots campaign based on three core demands that we believe can and should be met in a timely manner.
We are calling for:
1) A 24 hours low-barrier women-only (includes all self-identified women) drop-in space and shelter in the Downtown Eastside, ideally on Hastings Street between Main and Jackson. The establishment and operation of this service should be done through an accountable process including a transparent call for tenders and in consultation with community organizations and DTES resident women.
2) Housing for homeless women and children with at least 100 new units to be made available immediately.
3) Clear provincial standards for women’s safety in co-ed shelters to be implemented immediately in all existing and new shelters, including but not limited to:
• Women-only facilities in co-ed shelters with adequate women-only beds and services within those spaces.
• Women staff and training for all staff by women’s organizations experienced in issues of sexual and gender violence. Shelter contractors must demonstrate the ability to ensure safety and security for women shelter users and all staff must be able to demonstrate an understanding of gender inequalities that contribute to violence against women.
We are calling on allied groups, communities, and individuals to support us. Please get involved and spread the word!
For more information email email@example.com or call 604 681 8480 x 234.
* HOW TO SUPPORT:
1) PETITION: Please sign our online petition. We are hoping to gather 5000 signatures in two weeks and need your help to make this happen! Link to petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/DTESsafe/petition.html
2) ENDORSE: If you are a member of a DTES organization, women’s group, social justice collective, community centre, union, or campus group, we request that you please endorse our three demands by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 778 885 0040.
Our current list of endorsers include: Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, DTES Power of Women Group, WISH Drop-In Centre Society, Walk4Justice, Battered Women’s Support Services, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, PACE Society, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, Vancouver Status of Women, Oxfam Canada, No One Is Illegal Vancouver, Vancouver Action, Council of Canadians, Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, Streams of Justice, Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, Carnegie Community Action Project, Purple Thistle Centre, W2 Community Media Arts Society, Life Skills Centre , Ending Violence Association of BC, Portland Hotel Society, Pivot Legal Society, UBC Centre for Race Autobiography Gender and Age studies, Interfaith Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements, Women Against Violence Against Women, Aboriginal Front Door, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Simon Fraser Universtiy Women’s Centre Collective, University of Victoria Women’s Centre Collective, Indigenous Peoples’ Solidarity Movement Ottawa, York University Free Press
3) WRITE-IN: We are requesting that everyone to please send an email along the lines of the below to all of the following people in BC Housing, City Council, MLA’s and MP’s. Email addresses compiled here:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, MMcNeil@bchousing.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Ellen.Woodsworth@vancouver.ca, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Jenny.Kwan.MLA@leg.bc.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, Davies.D@parl.gc.ca, Dhaliwal.S@parl.gc.ca, Fry.H@parl.gc.ca, Murray.J@parl.gc.ca, Siksay.B@parl.gc.ca, Julian.P@parl.gc.ca, Dosanjh.U@parl.gc.ca
RE: Safe Housing and Safe Services for Women in the DTES
It has come to my attention that for the past two months a coalition has been raising the urgent issue of women’s safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. I have been dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in the Downtown Eastside. Sexual assaults against women in this neighbourhood in particular are normalized and their safety is not considered of highest priority as we have seen with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women. This would never be acceptable in any other part of town. I support the call for a 24 hours drop-in space and shelter for women in the Downtown Eastside, housing for homeless women and children, and clear protocols to be established within co-ed shelters.
(NAME, ADDRESS, CONTACT INFO)
* BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
- Open Letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson “Women Respond to Sexual Assaults in Downtown Eastside Church Shelter While Shelter and City of Vancouver Ignore Reports” http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6390
- Press Release “Women Respond to Comments by Reverend Ric Matthews of First United Church; Reiterate Calls for 24-hour Women’s Shelter and Safe Housing in DTES” http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6496.
- Press Release “Women’s Action in Downtown Eastside for Women’s Safety” and Open Letter to BC Housing: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6692
* SELECTED MEDIA:
- Video of press conference: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/video/press-conference-women-respond-sexual-assault-dtes-shelter/6484
- Podcast of Vancouver DTES women’s groups shut out of B.C. Housing office: http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/pivot-legal-society/2011/03/vancouver-dtes-womens-groups-shut-out-bc-housing-office
- Women rail against violence in shelters: http://www.theprovince.com/news/assault+protest/4488619/story.html
- Safe Housing, Safe Shelters and Safe Services for Women: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/vancouver-politics-and-service-provision/6707
- More emergency shelter spaces needed for women, Vancouver council hears: http://www.straight.com/article-382418/vancouver/more-emergency-shelter-spaces-needed-women-vancouver-council-hears
- Women’s groups outraged over sexual assault comments: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/03/02/bc-first-united-church-sexual-assaults.html