No funding to house victims of violence

In the last three years, the Whitehorse Housing Authority has received 96 requests from victims of violence. Only 48 of them were housed.

In the last three years, the Whitehorse Housing Authority has received 96 requests from victims of violence.

Only 48 of them were housed.

The rest of them “fell off the radar,” said Yukon Housing communications spokesperson Nathalie Ouellet.

They either found other accommodation or ended up back in the household where they were being abused, she said.

The housing authority currently has 80 people on its waitlist.

Ten per cent of them are victims of violence.

“Some have been waiting months,” said former Justice minister and human rights activist Lois Moorcroft.

“Women trying to leave a violent man are particularly vulnerable to attack – there’s no place to hide.”

Moorcroft, speaking at the Kaushee’s Place annual general meeting on Wednesday, stressed the need for second-stage housing in Whitehorse.

“We want to build a new, attractive, 10-unit apartment building downtown for women who are leaving violent partners,” she said.

In a design by architect Jack Kobayashi, the new building looks utilitarian and classy, with a wood-covered, open-air room for children to play behind a two-metre fence. “The outdoor room is a micro-climate in a secure area,” said Kobayashi.

The design is there – the need is enormous – but, so far, the second-stage housing team hasn’t been able to drum up funding.

“We’ve been working on this project since 2001,” said Kaushee’s executive director Barbara McInerney.

The building would cost $3.2 million, said Moorcroft. And operation and maintenance would run at $127,400 a year.

The second-stage housing team has approached the Women’s Directorate, its minister Marian Horne, officials at Health and Social Services, the Yukon Housing Corporation, the city and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to lobby for funding.

“The political will is there, the community support is there, the demonstrated need is there, we just need the funding,” said Moorcroft.

But even Kaushee’s struggles with funding.

Although it’s been housing women and children fleeing violence since 1980, stable funds for the organization do not exist.

“At the beginning of 2008, we literally did not have enough money to make it through the end of the fiscal year,” said McInerney. “And we knew it.”

But the staff stayed on.

And, during the meeting, McInerney thanked them for that.

Kaushee’s negotiated hard and gave government a deadline.

If there wasn’t funding by that date, Kaushee’s was going to close for the first time in 28 years.

“If you can’t make the end of the fiscal year, then you can’t make the end of the fiscal year,” she said.

“I’m not going to work the staff any harder, you can’t.”

Kaushee’s was in heavy negotiations through the summer, and wrote business plan after business plan.

But it wasn’t until September that it got a verbal funding agreement, and that came only after McInerney threatened to shut the place down.

“I was starting to get pretty frustrated,” she said.

“And when they didn’t meet the deadline, I phoned the deputy minister and said, ‘The board is going public with this now,’ and she said, ‘I think there’s been a decision made, just hold on.’”

Not long after that conversation, Kaushee’s got verbal confirmation the funding was coming.

But the contract didn’t materialize until November.

“So we didn’t really lighten up on really scrimping until November, because until you have it in writing….”

Funding is hard to get, said McInerney. “It always is tough.”

“I never knew that kind of tough negotiating is part of running a women’s transition home, but it is.”

Kaushee’s gets funding from Health and Social Services and Yukon Housing Corporation.

Its building is always full, with a waitlist.

And the proposed second-stage housing project would also fill instantly, said McInerney.

Just the women who have to flee their Whitehorse Housing apartments because they’re not safe, or because their partner comes in and does damage – those women alone would fill it, she said.

“After women leave a relationship, it’s one of the most dangerous times for them, in terms of physical violence,” said McInerney.

So a secure building, the ability to have support, and to have the family healing together in a safe environment is really, really important, she said.

Then, once things have been sorted out, with custody orders, divisions of assets and divorces, women are ready to go out and be in the rest of the world, without the security and the programming.

“But it’s so crucial to get to that point,” said McInerney.

“Violence against women is so prevalent in the northern territories,” said Horne, speaking at Kaushee’s meeting.

And this violence far exceeds the national average, she said.

For every 100,000 people in Canada, 31 of them are women forced into shelters to escape violence.

But that number is far higher in the North, according to the 2008 study, Residents of Canada’s Shelters for Abused Women.

In the Yukon, for every 100,000 people, 234 are women in shelters, while the NWT and Nunavut see 183 women escaping to shelters.

So, on a single day, shelter use in the Yukon is four times higher than any of the provinces.

And compared to the provinces, rates of sexual offences are two to three times higher in the Yukon, according to the 2006 study, Measuring Violence Against Women.

“We have to stop this violence,” said Horne.

The territorial government is currently sitting on $17.5 million set aside for affordable housing, through the Northern Housing Trust.

The second-stage housing team has asked the territorial government for a forgivable mortgage to cover capital construction costs of its proposed building.

Eight years into the project, it’s still waiting.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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