Posted on 10 October 2012 by Mathew White
When it comes to the South Okanagan Safe House, co-ordinator Tamara Aspell says the most surprising thing about the home is the sheer number of people who have no idea it exists.
“I’m always surprised, when it’s been in this community for as long as it has, which is about seven years ago … and people still don’t know that we have one,” said Aspell.
The South Okanagan Safe House is a 24-hour a day, seven days a week woman’s shelter open to any woman over 19 years old who is being or feels threatened and/or abused.
The home provides short-term shelter (up to 10 days) for women and their children fleeing any type of violence.
“Whether it’s domestic violence with their intimate partner, women who are vulnerable or at-risk of violence or even if they’re homeless and just need shelter,” said Aspell.
Aspell said the addition of being able to house homeless women is something new that came with their new contract with BC Housing. The house also used to have a five-day limit, but with the new contract it was extended to 10 days with the opportunity to extend it even further.
Having the ability to house women for even longer gives the Safe House workers so much more time to help the residents and get them to where they need to go, said Aspell.
In addition to providing a safe place to eat and sleep, the workers at the safe home also do so much more to help those in need. Once a woman arrives at the home, Aspell said they “just start planning what’s next – the next step.”
“We start helping her plan what she is going to do,” said Aspell.
“If she’s going to return to the relationship, it’s going to be a safety plan – how she’s going to get out safely if there’s a next time. Also, what are some other safe places she might have? If it’s family back in Saskatchewan or Vernon or the (Vancouver) Island, we need to help her get there.”
Aspell said sometimes the plan is to get the woman into a transition home, which usually allows for a longer residency and gives women a little more time to get their affairs in order.
The home also provides things like transportation to legal and doctor appointments and a number of other related services.
Whenever someone leaves, they are always given the option of coming back, however many times may be necessary, she said.
The South Okanagan Safe House is funded through BC Housing, community supporters and local fundraising efforts.
Aspell said it is quite expensive providing a regular home to anyone in need 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Because of this, she said she is so thankful to everyone in the community who generously supports them and what they do.
“This community has just been fabulous,” she said. “I don’t want to single any one donor out, but just last week someone came into the office – a local organization – and dropped off a cheque for $500.”
It is this kind of generosity that has allowed the safe home to remain viable in this community, said Aspell.
And while the safe home itself does not accept volunteers, Aspell said its umbrella agency (Desert Sun) is always on the lookout for someone willing to lend a helping hand.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Aspell via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.desertsuncounselling.ca/ for more information.
Finally, if you are interested in using the South Okanagan Safe House, you can call 250-485-7777 or toll-free at 1-877-7233-911.
The safe home also provides a help line, which can be reached at either of the numbers above.