Former Parksville Qualicum Haven House client Lee relaxes on the couch at the safe home. Now in Stage 2 of the support program

THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Haven House after one year

Facility in Parksville Qualicum Beach provides a place for women to feel safe and get much-needed support

It’s hard to overestimate the value of a safe haven.

Lee (not her real name) spent a couple of years living with some friends and family in Calgary, helping them through their issues.

“Thing is, I was not dealing with my own stuff,” Lee said this week from Haven House, which is celebrating one year of operation in Parksville Qualicum Beach. “I was totally lost. I was a 57-year-old woman who needed to get on with her life. The kids didn’t need me anymore, the grandkids, well, you see them when you get the chance.”

“To be the optimum grand-mom I wanted to be, I needed to take care of myself.”

Before that could happen, Lee needed a safe, supportive place to live. She had lived in Parksville Qualicum Beach as a youngster so she made the move back here in March. She spent a few days with old friends and then contacted the Society of Organized Services (SOS).

“They were absolutely wonderful in helping me get myself straightened around,” said Lee. “They were very supportive.”

SOS pointed Lee to Haven House.

“It’s a safe, warm, comfy home where I can feel calm and gather my thoughts,” said Lee. “That sounds simple but it’s not. A lot of the anxiety a lot of women feel is like this: I’m the one who took care of things for so many years, how come I can’t do this?”

Lee now lives in what’s called Stage 2 housing at Haven House. She pays rent and also helps out around the place.

“My plans are to get back to working,” said Lee, who is taking courses and leaning toward something in the field of support worker. “I want to give back.”

Haven House, run by the Haven Society, is there for women like Lee and all women facing challenges like abusive relationships. There are three bedrooms and room for children.

The Parksville Qualicum facility is a safe house, as opposed to a transition house that is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year, like the Haven Society has in Nanaimo. The Haven Society has about 50 years experience operating transition houses.

“With the expertise Haven Society bring to working with women, we are able to provide a much stronger and well-rounded service for women and children,” said SOS executive director Renate Sutherland.

The Parksville Qualicum Haven House has been full 124 nights in the past year and has had to turn away seven women when it was full, five in the last six months.

“It’s been more busy than we initially anticipated,” said Haven Society executive director Anne Taylor. “That’s always kind of a double-edged sword — it confirms the need. It also speaks to the fact we probably need more.”

Taylor and Sutherland both said there has been superb community support for the house in the past year. They also said there’s a group working right now on fundraising initiatives to raise money that could see more spots like Haven House for women and children in Parksville Qualicum Beach, or perhaps enough funding to staff the local facility 24/7.

Lee, the Haven House resident, remembers a time when there wasn’t this kind of help available to women.

“The Haven Society, for me, is absolutely wonderful,” said Lee. “Years ago when I was a single parent there wasn’t a lot of resources like this so it’s nice to see.”

If you are in crisis, call 1-888-756-0616, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you would like more information about Haven House, call 250-586-4718.

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