Evidence of meeting #119 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was shelter.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

John Gerrard  Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga
Marie-Ève Surprenant  Coordinator, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine
Fabienne Héraux  External Services Social Worker, Lina's Home, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine
Melpa Kamateros  Executive Director, The Shield of Athena - Family Services
Sonia Sidhu  Brampton South, Lib.
Honourable K. Kellie Leitch  Simcoe—Grey, CPC
Travis DeCoste  Housing Support Worker, A Roof Over Your Head, Antigonish Community Transit
Bob Bratina  Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.
Chantal Arseneault  President, Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Louise Riendeau  Co-responsible, Political Issues, Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Violet Hayes  Executive Director, Island Crisis Care Society

5:40 p.m.

Housing Support Worker, A Roof Over Your Head, Antigonish Community Transit

Travis DeCoste

I do believe that there would be benefit to that. Right now part of my job is developing a rapport in relationships with landlords within Antigonish and surrounding areas and educating them on opportunities that they are currently not aware of. Part of my job is navigating through the community resources that landlords can utilize. Tax incentive programs for landlords to offer shelter would be of benefit within our community.

5:45 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.

Bob Bratina

You shared a personal story set in a smaller community, which I suspect may be different from larger communities such as Laval, because in smaller places everybody knows everybody. Is there an issue for women escaping abusive relationships where it's virtually impossible for them to separate themselves completely from the abuser?

5:45 p.m.

Housing Support Worker, A Roof Over Your Head, Antigonish Community Transit

Travis DeCoste

There is quite a number of women who do experience domestic violence within the communities in the surrounding areas around Antigonish and Guysborough counties. Unfortunately, currently we have two transitional shelters, one in Richmond county, the Leeside Transition House, and one in Pictou county, the Tearmann Society, and both leave individuals quite close to the communities in which the perpetrator lives. For instance, because of close community contacts and family, the issue of my two parents in my personal story was that my mother was left roughly half a kilometre from where my father resided, and that caused issues throughout the early stages of the process and the court process.

5:45 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.

Bob Bratina

Thank you.

Ms. Arseneault, you shared one of the tragic stories. One thing that comes to mind is this. When you're dealing with these women, do they feel a personal sense of failure that their relationship has led to abuse? Is much of their problem in transitioning self-esteem and working on their own personal issues with regard to the relationship?

5:45 p.m.

President, Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale

Chantal Arseneault

That is one of the first things we do when they arrive at the shelter. We reassure those women and their children by telling them that they are not responsible for the domestic violence. The person responsible is the violent husband.

The consequences of violence against women are lowered self-esteem, self-confidence and, finally, relation to self. That also extends to the mother-child relationship. We help them rebuild themselves during their time with us, which may go from days to weeks. They have their own identity, but because of the domestic violence they have endured over time, it is as if they could no longer see their full potential. That is what we work on with them, so they can get back to a life without violence and have access to all the freedom all women should be entitled to.

5:45 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.

Bob Bratina

As to the consequences for the abusive partner, how are women shielded from him, or is there a process in place where the police, or somebody, is able to keep the abusive partner distant?

5:45 p.m.

President, Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale

Chantal Arseneault

In Laval and several other regions of Quebec, we are lucky that our groups work together. That is the best way to ensure the safety of women and children.

When shelters and women turn to police officers, it is important for them to be present, but it is also important for all partners to be aware of a domestic violence situation.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That's your time. I'm sorry.

5:45 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.

Bob Bratina

Thank you.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Thank you.

Rachael, you have five minutes.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

Ms. Hayes, I'm going to direct a number of questions to you. I want to thank you for being so patient with us, sitting online and waiting for us to vote.

My question is with regard to affordability. You mention, of course, that there are many women who have lived in their houses for years and years and then now, of course, can't afford them any longer. I'd like you to chat a little bit more about the affordability piece. Specifically, what I would recognize is that women initially might come into a shelter looking for safety and security in order to flee a violent relationship, but then their dream—I would imagine, in most cases—is to land in some sort of affordable, secure and independent housing. For many of them, their dream is probably even to own a home.

I just wonder if you could comment with regard to the housing continuum and what could be done to facilitate that opportunity for women.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Island Crisis Care Society

Violet Hayes

It's a real challenge right now. As I mentioned, we've had huge success with the continuum of putting them into supports. Initially, they sometimes need that 24-hour support, then move into fewer supports, and then into rent subsidies. When we provide a rent subsidy for them, we try to find market housing that they can rent, and we give them the subsidy so that they afford it.

Our challenge, right now, is that even with the rent subsidies, we just cannot find anywhere to rent. We're seeing one-bedroom units going for $1,100 or $1,200 a month. Even if you have a $300 or $400 rent subsidy, you still cannot do it if you're on a pension or if you're just on minimum wage. It's very difficult. That's why we have such a huge tent city. That's why we're seeing people in desperate need. We just need so much more right now. Then the hope is gone and it's challenging.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Right. Is there anything that can be done at the federal level to be able to help move women along that continuum and into affordable housing?

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Island Crisis Care Society

Violet Hayes

Yes, the mention of the tax break for landlords might help. I know, as the value of the houses are going up, to find a house now for $500,000, that's a fairly basic house now in Nanaimo. If landlords are having to pay a mortgage on the place and their taxes keep going up, they put the rent up as much as they can. We just had the latest announcement for how much the rent could go up next year, and it was 4.5%. That's a big jump, but the bigger issue, of course, is when the people are moved out, for whatever reason. Maybe they say they're going to do renovations and they have that ability to have the people leave with three months' notice, and then the next time it comes up for rent it's jumped up $500 or $600 a month. If there could be some sort of controls, that would be amazing.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Right. What about the centre? You mentioned some of the challenges you're facing there with regard to your facility, the home that you're using. Can you comment with regard to the gaps you're experiencing with funding and where some of those gaps could be filled in?

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Island Crisis Care Society

Violet Hayes

Yes. As I mentioned, we really struggle because we're not specifically for women fleeing abuse. There is a shelter that does a great job in town, but when it's full, we often get those women as well. I think it has six beds. We have 14 shelter beds and six supported units in our house. We could easily double that. We did buy the lot next door about six years ago in the hopes of expanding because we saw the need coming, but we're trying to do it ourselves. We keep asking, “Is there money available? When's it going to come?” We keep hearing yes, but it doesn't come. That's a lot of money to raise as a small organization.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

I'll turn now to Travis. I would be interested in hearing about some of your lived experience. That's unique for this committee. Perhaps you could comment on the importance of secure housing.

5:50 p.m.

Housing Support Worker, A Roof Over Your Head, Antigonish Community Transit

Travis DeCoste

In regard to secure housing, and to speak to your comments on how affordable housing could be created, we're now working towards approaching a developer in Antigonish to come up with creative and innovative ideas to address the housing concerns. We are looking at things as simple as shipping container units, which are used very frequently on the west coast in Vancouver and cities like that to develop as an option for home ownership.

It's very unfortunate, but being a young person now within the country, home ownership is not a reality that I can look to, nor is it a reality that local women experiencing domestic violence can look to. We would like to look at innovative ideas that could offer women leaving situations of domestic violence a supportive environment, a small, secure space they could call their own.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Sheila.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to all the witnesses. You have given us a lot of really good material.

I'm going to direct my questions to Island Crisis Care Society. Thank you for your tremendous work. I'm a big fan.

You're talking about the homeless population in Nanaimo, which is significant for many reasons. You're looking after women, and we've heard other witnesses talk about how domestic violence and sexual abuse in the home can be a pathway to homelessness. If in an ideal world we had in place a good sexual violence prevention program and a good shelter space, then those women might not have ever ended up on the street at all. Now that you are catching them, however, the funding envelope doesn't work in the same way. I see we have some programming and some funding models to fix. Thank you for laying that out so clearly.

I read in the newspaper today that your group is going to be the operator of the new Terminal Park modular housing, 80 units, and the newspaper said it may well be that they are almost entirely women who come into that site from Nanaimo's tent city. Can you talk a bit more about how that might work?

5:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Island Crisis Care Society

Violet Hayes

We're very excited to at least have this option coming up. It's a lot of work as you can imagine trying to get 80 units. They are not even on site yet. They are being moved in. It's workforce housing that's being brought in from Fort St. John in the north. They have shipped these workforce buildings in, and now we're trying to get them all organized, trying to hire the staff and get people moved in.

It will be supportive housing, which is wonderful, but it's 170 units between ours and Pacifica Housing, which is doing the other site. Of course, we know there are at least 400 homeless people in Nanaimo now, so it's going to be under half who receive some sort of support.

Along with that, B.C. Housing is working very hard and is putting in what I hear is quite a high number of rent subsidies. As I mentioned, though, there's simply nowhere to put those people, even with the rent subsidies.

We are excited about it, and it is a step, but so much more is needed. We desperately need that capital money to come in so we can expand Samaritan House and continue to support the women. When they come in, they are so vulnerable. They need to be built up and told that they really can do it. They have lost their confidence. We want to be able to take them in and care for them so that they are ready to move out on their own.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you.

When you testified in the context of our previous study on economic justice, you gave a very good statement that has a lot of material that would be helpful for this study.

Would it be all right for us to use your same presentation? This is from June 13, 2017. We could gravitate that into this study as well. That would save some time. Is that all right?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

We're not quite sure what you're asking, Sheila.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I'll just give you the transcript, which was on record at this committee previously, and it's already translated. There is a lot of the same groups' testimony that we could get on the record and then draw on for our final report.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

We can share it with the committee as correspondence. It's already translated.