A local shelter that provides women with a safe place to stay is running low on basic supplies and in need of donations. The Samaritan House Emergency Women’s Shelter has seen a spike in the number of women seeking shelter and assistance and as a result it’s asking members of the public to consider donating a range of household supplies.Michelle Authier, operations manager for Island Crisis Care Society, the organization that runs Samaritan House, said while it has plenty of clothing on hand, it is short on pyjamas, underwear, socks and toiletry products.
“People don’t give away their used underwear and socks,” she said. “They give away their clothing so we are always low on underwear, bras and socks.” In recent months, the Nicol Street shelter has seen a sudden influx of new faces in addition to the regular visitors.
According to Authier, the shelter took in 26 new women in June and last month could not provide beds for more than 20 women because it was over capacity.
“We have a lot of what we call frequent fliers, so people who are in and out, but we had 25 new faces that we had not seen before in June,” she said.
Authier said there are a range of factors contributing to the spike, but pointed to the lack of affordable housing as a significant factor.
“The conversation among shelters on the Island right now is about the housing. There is not enough affordable housing and the housing that women can afford is not safe. So it is a constant struggle,” she said. “We don’t have enough affordable housing that is safe.”
The shelter increased the number of beds it has to 14 last fall after downsizes to 10 a few years earlier according to Authier. Since the addition, it’s been over capacity for most nights and women are coming from all over the province.
“It’s not safe where they are staying so they are coming here,” Authier said. “This time of year there is no colder weather shelter either. Normally from October to March if we are full we can refer them, but a lot of times women don’t want to go there because there are men and women there and they have had bad experiences.”Authier said she’s not expecting things to taper off once the summer ends.”It’s hard to say because we’ve been over capacity for two full years,” she said. “So to say that things will taper down is unlikely. Nanaimo keeps building this low-barrier supportive housing thinking our numbers are going to decrease, but it is not.”Donations can be dropped off at 355 Nicol Street. For more information, please call 250-753-1474.