In recognition of the many challenges women in this community face, Vancouver-based businesses, Prism Engineering and RATIO, partnered up to provide in-kind support to help the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre open a new second, much needed shelter for women.
The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre provides a safe, nonjudgmental environment for women from all walks of life who live or work in the Downtown Eastside.
It offers women supportive surroundings and services for women, including shelter, refreshments and meals, telephone and computer use, safe and clean washrooms and showers, access to clothing and toiletries and medical supplies, housing and referral counselling services, and advocacy services.
For many women who live or work on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related health restrictions have intensified the challenge of accessing safe, supportive spaces and community services.
“Our community of women has been exasperated and isolated even more so than most by the pandemic as services and access to spaces have been limited,” says Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Facilities Coordinator Lila Gaylie. “Many services and shelter spaces were closed during the height of the pandemic, which had women facing the stress of the pandemic on top of the stress of finding a safe space.”
Physical distancing requirements put in place by provincial health authorities to slow the spread of COVID-19 also limited access to the centre’s women-only spaces – even as the need for those spaces skyrocketed.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected some communities and put many people in unsafe situations with few options,” says Prism Engineering President Robert Greenwald. “We saw this project as an opportunity to give back and make a real difference to the community during this time of need.”
Prism worked with RATIO Architecture to fast-track the renovation of the shelter to meet high demand and provide women with safe, warm indoor accommodations during the winter. Construction on the former retail space began January 18, 2021 and with the support of the City of Vancouver in the permit process, the centre was open for use just a few weeks later, in early February.
The new space, which includes washrooms, kitchen areas, a reception area for staff, and leisure spaces for women to relax and receive support services, helps alleviate the need. It has allowed the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre to expand its hours and services, and serve more women in the community by giving them a safe place to go that is off the street and out of the line of gender-based violence.
“Prism Engineering and the other groups helping us on this project made a world of difference in ensuring a smooth process and that things were done right, despite the incredibly tight timelines,” says the centre’s Fundraising & Communications Coordinator Ali Omelaniec. “We are so grateful for their generous assistance in providing a safe, functional space that will provide shelter and safety for women in the Downtown Eastside during such a tough time in the community.”
“This pandemic has very clearly shown us that we need to support each other,” Greenwald says “and I encourage others to consider what they can do to help those in our community who need our support the most.”
For information on how to donate to the Downtown Eastside Community Centre, please visit https://dewc.ca/donate.
To find out about other registered charities in B.C. that provide vital services to people in need, visit https://www.canadahelps.org/en/explore/charities/category/social-services/region/BC/.