Five years ago, something incredible happened in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.
“We knew that more needed to be done to assist local women and children who were fleeing abuse,” said Susanna Newton, executive director at Society of Organized Services (SOS). SOS provided a Safe Home Program for 38 years in the region, providing short-term stays to women and their children.
But SOS and Haven Society, along with a number of other agencies and residents, recognized a greater need. Women needed ongoing support at this vulnerable time, they needed to make sure their children could get to school safely, and they needed more time to collect their thoughts and heal. In 2013, SOS and Haven Society partnered to open the Parksville Qualicum Haven House (PQHH).
The first year of operation confirmed there was a need.
“We were full 124 nights in the first year and we had to turn away seven women when it was full,” said Dawn Clark, acting executive director at Haven Society. “It was busier than we had anticipated.”
As word has spread over the years that women could access a local safe home, that they could leave their abusive situations, get support from caring staff, and get their lives and their sanity back, interest in the PQHH began to increase.
Last year there were 435 stays overnight in the house and 118 crisis calls.
Some community donations and fundraising initiatives have generated funds for additional, much-needed, staff at the PQHH. However, the vision has always been to create a fully functioning transition house, staffed around the clock.
“The house has changed a lot of lives. And we now have a clearer picture of the need in this area, and what we need to do to ensure those needs are met, and also that women have the opportunity to thrive. We look forward to working with the community to take this a step further, and provide that additional help,” said Clark.
“It’s been an incredible five years, enabling women to make a crucial change for themselves and for their children. We are excited about the future of house and the impact it will continue to have in our community.”
— Submitted by the SOS