Last month, we had the opportunity to visit one of our partnering agencies, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. This organization, operated by the Vancouver Rape Relief Society, is a safe shelter for women and their children trying to prevent or escape male violence. The shelter also operates a 24 hour rape crisis line and centre, and has been referring mothers in need to BabyGoRound for several years.
The work being done at the shelter and crisis centre is not only remarkable but incredibly inspiring - what began as three women, a phone line and a basement in the 1970's has grown into a thriving resource dedicated to advocacy, community and support. The shelter has ten beds for women and their children fleeing violence; stays are approximately 30 days but are often longer due mostly to barriers to affordable housing. The crisis line brings in over 1200 individual callers per year; the crisis centre also supports face to face meetings with callers, where information, support and advocacy are provided.
The shelter, which was first opened in 1983, is staffed 24/7 and overseen by a large volunteer base and a staff team of over 20. The organization runs as a collective, where all volunteers and staff give input and bureaucratic practices are avoided. There is a reassuring climate of empowerment, advocacy, and awareness of systemic sexism, and a resounding level of dedication to the support being given.
The house is incredibly welcoming; the layout has been creatively renovated to promote safety. The play spaces for children, cozy living room, and large open kitchen emit a very warm and comfortable feeling. Residents participate in weekly meetings and take turns preparing dinner. The walls are decorated with women-positive art, some of which was created and donated by clients. Plenty of feminist literature and other resources are available to residents and other visitors, as well as a quiet space for anyone to find time alone in a full house.
It is truly an honour to learn more about our partnering agencies and the phenomenal work they are doing. It is amazing how many groups of people have come together to create the integral organizations that support Vancouver's Lower Mainland. It is only through passion and commitment to serve others that we have achieved such a supportive community.