Oral submission at the Budget 2020 Consultation (on June 14, 2019):
The women who call us to support them in their search for safety are often poor or low income, immigrant women, indigenous women, women of colour, some are struggling with substance use or mental health. Our recommendations are directly derived from what the women who call us and live in our transition house tell us they need.
We appreciate the BC government has already committed to provide housing for women and their children escaping violence. But it’s not enough.
Only one of the women who stayed with us last year received subsidized housing after leaving our transition house. Most women have been waiting for more than two years. The reality is women cannot find available, affordable, suitable housing. We’re forced to compromise, by accepting a place that is too small, too far from work and school, or by going into a homeless shelter, or by going back to the abusive man. For this, we recommend the BC Provincial government not only continue funding the creation of more social housing designated for single women and women with children but also to ensure that every person living in British Columbia have a guaranteed livable income in combination with some form of rent control.
The basic principles of guaranteed livable income are that it’s set high enough to provide all basic necessities, given unconditionally without tests or requirements or limitations, given to all adults regardless of marital status, immigration status or job status. This will ensure that poverty doesn’t prevent a woman from leaving an abuser, or an exploitative job, or factor into her resorting to prostitution.
Some women who call us are struggling with substance use and/or mental health, increasing her vulnerability to men’s violence. They face an impossible situation…just this week I called and the wait was 10 days for a detox bed. Women deserve the ability to access a mental health team, detox, and women-centred recovery programs on demand.
We provide assistance to women and girls in prostitution who have been assaulted by pimps or johns. Half of the women who lived in our house last year were currently in or had been in prostitution. British Columbia must provide concrete options to leave prostitution, including a guaranteed livable income, safe affordable housing and addiction mental health services. Women are waiting six months to get into residential programming so we call on the provincial government to fund the creation of more women-led exiting services.
Women working in low paid jobs can travel long distances on public transportation because they can’t afford housing in Vancouver. We work with single mothers who have to buy 3 zone passes, spending around 10% of her already meager income. So the first 12 hours of working every month just go to pay for her commute. We support the #AllOnBoard campaign for free public transportation for anyone up to age 18 and on a sliding scale for adults.
We appreciate the recent investments into child care, but many women are still left out because wait times to get into child care are long, and women who work evening and weekend hours are sometimes unable to access child care at all. If she chooses a non-licensed childcare, she will receive only a fraction of what she would if accessing licensed childcare.
When women are leaving an abusive man, qualifying for and then getting enough legal aid hours is difficult but basic necessity. Men use custody and access in family court to exhaust her hours. We demand that a woman escaping violence have a higher financial threshold to qualify as right now a single woman with a child making 40,000 could fail to qualify, and be completely unable to pay out of pocket.
We have a serious problem with cases of violence against women in the criminal justice system. Few are reported to police at all, and only one in five sexual assaults reported by police will result in a trial. We have examples of judges who aren’t fully informed of sexual assault laws and the Supreme Court of Canada interpretation of these laws. Public oversight over the judiciary is crucial, so we call for a genuine “open court principle” and that a fund be created so all judgements of cases of violence against women are transcribed and accessible to the public online for full accountability.
The recommendations we have today are based on what we’ve heard from the women we work with every day. We’re happy to hear John Horgan’s commitment to listen to women’s voices.