Comment: Shelter situation is a failure of design

Re: “Duncan council failed to lead on shelter for homeless women,” comment, Sept. 29.

In her recent commentary, Jane Sterk, executive director of the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society, wrote about city council turning down the Extreme Weather Women’s Shelter in the school on Cairnsmore Street. She wrote: “I am disgusted at the unnecessary and mean-spirited nastiness this futile process has encouraged,” and named me specifically.

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Warmland House was built about 10 years ago at the cost of $13 million. It is not the first shelter to be built, and historically, women have never felt comfortable in male-dominated shelters. Why it was built without taking that into consideration and having a women-only area is a profound failure of design.

Since then, absolutely zero has been done to mitigate this problem. There is plenty of room in the back for an Atco-type trailer with light, heat, washrooms, etc., and access to services such as the laundry inside the building.

There are other solutions out there that could work that do not include putting the shelter next to a daycare that cares for children of at-risk families. What happens inside the building might be strictly controlled, but there will be no control over what happens around the building, as we know from the placement of the overdose-prevention sites in Duncan with the attendant crime, drug sales and sex workers.

Also, I see my job as representing or serving my community. We had a standing-room-only crowd in city hall, with people spilling out into the hallway because there was no room, and we listened for well over two hours to people begging us not to permit this, for reasons of:

• five daycares in the immediate area;

• a senior-care home within a block;

• a group home for mentally challenged people within a block;

• a community already under siege from unwelcome and criminal behaviour;

• other concerns such as personal safety and security.

We had to pay attention. Who am I to tell them that they are wrong, that their concerns have no foundation in fact and that I would vote to override their objections? I simply could not do that.

And that is why I voted the way I did.

Sharon Jackson is a city councillor in Duncan.

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