Heather Ney, executive director of the Comox Valley Transition Society, embraces Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard at an announcement about new safe homes for women and children, Thursday at the Courtenay Court House. At left is acting Courtenay mayor Melanie McCollum. K’ómoks First Nation Chief Nicole Rempel is at centre. Scott Stanfield photo

New safe homes open for women leaving violence in Courtenay

A new housing project for women and children leaving violence has opened in Courtenay.

Last month, residents moved into their new homes at the project, which provides eight units for up to 16 women and children. Rents range from $570 to $965 a month.

“We believe that the housing of women and children is one of the most positive contributions we can make towards a better future in our community,” Comox Valley Transition Society executive director Heather Ney said Thursday at an announcement at the Courtenay Court House lawn.

The CVTS will manage day-to-day operations of the units. Women will receive assistance to access services such as counselling, job searches, and exploring educational opportunities and parenting support.

The $2.4 million project is funded through the Building BC: Women’s Transition Fund, a $734-million investment over 10 years to build 1,500 transition, second-stage and long-term housing spaces for women and children leaving violence.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe in their home and their community, but we know that women face violence every day in B.C.,” said Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard, who credits the hard work of the CVTS to provide secure homes. “Women and children who are escaping abuse need a safe, secure place to live and support so they can heal. No one should be faced with the impossible choice of returning to a violent home, or risking homelessness.”

Since 1987, the CVTS has offered women and children a safe place to stay at the Lilli House shelter. Over the past year, Ney said more than 270 women and children stayed at Lilli House, some as long as seven months, due to the lack of safe, affordable housing.

“Lilli House has been full as many as 302 nights a year,” said Ney, who gave special mention to builder/property owner Peter Croonen, a longtime CVTS partner. “His patience, perseverance and willingness to take a risk is the biggest reason we are here today announcing the opening of eight new two-bedroom units, centrally-located in Courtenay. I hope we do this again.”

Melanie McCollum, acting mayor of Courtenay, and K’ómoks First Nation Chief Nicole Rempel were also on hand Thursday.

“Providing an escape from the cycle of abuse will have immeasurable benefits,” McCollum said. “These new homes will further expand much-needed housing availability to vulnerable women in the Comox Valley.”

“The programs and services you (CVTS) provide assist so many women and children in need in difficult times, and provide hope to those who feel helpless and feel they have nowhere to turn,” Rempel said. “I raise my hands to all the volunteers, all the staff and organizers of this society.”

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