By AINA YASUÉ
Salt Spring Solutions
Cindy Orser works at a transition home, one of the many anti-violence and safe housing programs provided by Islanders Working Against Violence (IWAV), assisting women who are experiencing intimate partner violence. The transition home shelters women for a 30-day transition period while finding a safe place for them to settle into. However, it has become increasingly difficult to find housing for the clients.
“Our job is to help women get out of difficult situations,” she says. “Trying to find them housing is next to impossible.”
Cindy’s landlords are selling their condo and moving back into the cabin that she has been renting her on Salt Spring. She is paying more than 70 per cent of her income on rent and utilities. Cindy and her elderly mother were stressed about moving out due to the competitive housing market.
“The housing crisis has affected my sleep. It’s amazing how many months of stress it takes up. To think about where to go, how to get there. At this age, moving is not that easy,” she says.
Cindy and her mother eventually found a place to move to in October, although it will cost more, leaving Cindy with only a couple of hundred dollars left each month for food and personal necessities. It’s her second year on the waitlist for social housing yet, she says, “you basically have to be homeless to get in.” And even then, it’s not enough. “Many people who come to the shelter live in their cars. We’re getting so many calls about women who are on the streets, and lots of seniors who don’t have places to live. There is no place for them here.”
Issues of homelessness and abuse are interconnected. As Cindy observes at her work, homelessness can leave people vulnerable, finding themselves in dangerous situations which can lead to abuse. Many people end up moving from one transition home to another, never finding stability, or eventually, sadly, returning to the place from which they fled. The challenges are especially hard on young mothers, who must constantly re-organize logistics to be able to continue to work and keep their kids in school.
“It’s very stressful and disappointing to send them to another shelter. The main thing is they just need a place to live. They need a room, a bathroom and a little place to cook.”
Cindy said that the need for housing is greater than ever, specifically pointing out frontline workers. “There has to be more housing. Or there has to be more people willing to rent out their spaces long-term. But it seems there’s no incentives for landlords to do that,” she says. “Why don’t we think our frontline workers are important, that they need a place to live? They work so hard. They work all day long, all week. And that money isn’t enough to give them a place to live? Something is definitely wrong here.”
The above piece is the fifth in a series of profiles of islanders who are impacted by the lack of affordable housing, compiled and written by Aina Yasué of the Salt Spring Solutions community group.