Women’s shelter to open in January
As demand continues to rise for the services of the Christchurch City Mission, a new permanent women’s night shelter will be available to house up to 13 women in need early next year.
City Missioner Matthew Mark says Christchurch has about 170 to 180 people sleeping rough, and a further 4000 people experiencing ‘the next level of homelessness’, sleeping in cars, sheds, and derelict buildings.
“We’ve found the women we’re serving are often those in an abusive relationship, and unfortunately it can be safer for them to be on the street rather than at home,” he says.
“Or situations or circumstance have meant they’ve lost their accommodation, and that has been the last thing that has kept them connected with the community.
Often, both the men and women we service are coming from vulnerable situations.
Women don’t feel comfortable being around men, often as a result of abuse.
Our focus then is on the need to provide an environment that’s safe and get them into a place they feel comfortable enough to open up and allow us to help.”
He says times have changed from the days when women would stay in a relationship that’s not healthy just so they could have a roof over their heads.
“It’s become a time where women are saying ‘it’s just not safe’, and the demand for our services has grown.”
The concept of a women’s shelter was trialled for the first time in 2012, when the Christchurch City Mission leased a villa near the central city which could house up to seven women.
“We had quite a big demand through that period of time, and while we haven’t always run at 100% occupancy, we’ve consistently been very close to it since beginning the trial.”
The new women’s shelter is now under construction on Hereford Street, across the road from the Christchurch City Mission’s main facility,
and is expected to be operational by the end of January.
It is being funded by an insurance claim from a building the Christchurch City Mission lost in the earthquakes, with some donations and support from the community as well.
“Our builder Higgs Construction has been very passionate about making sure they provide the best possible outcome for our women, and they talk very enthusiastically about why they’re doing what they’re doing,” Matthew says.
The purpose-built facility will include multiple rooms with multiple bedding in those rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, social rooms, and counselling facilities.
“Every single person who comes through our doors for any of its services, we talk to them about the bigger picture,” Matthew says.
“Sometimes people are so broken they can’t bring themselves to stay in an environment with other people, and the choice is then to remain on the streets.
“When we encounter situations such as this, our focus is to work with them and bring them to a place where they trust us enough to provide support.
“Everyone sits down with a social worker, they go through their story and talk about how they have found themselves in this situation, what are their immediate needs, and are there other things we can work alongside them with.
“ The ideal situation is we provide a permanent solution and never see them again.
It does happen. Not in every instance, and it might be we engage with a person two or three times before we get to that solution.
If there’s a need, and an opportunity to meet that need, we will.”
For those sleeping rough, the Christchurch City Mission does everything it can in respect to providing meals during the day, and clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags to keep them warm and dry.
The new women’s shelter will enable the Christchurch City Mission to house up to 43 people across both the men’s and women’s night shelters.