Women’s shelter in Nanaimo plans expansion

NANAIMO – Samaritan House plans new building on lot adjacent to its current facility.

Samaritan House, Nanaimo’s women-only emergency shelter, is looking to expand as it grapples with limited space.

The Island Crisis Care Society, which runs Samaritan House, has applied for a development permit to build a three-storey addition next to its Nicol-Street shelter.

The vision, four years in the making, is to create more space for educational activities, additional low-barrier transitional units and a new entrance that will allow clients, the public and education groups to access different parts of the building.

Violet Hayes, executive director of Island Crisis Care Society, said space and the age of the building – at more than 100 years old – is a challenge. There isn’t a place for meetings or activities and no living room where clients can sit and relax. It’s just so tight, she said.

The building has a 14-bed shelter and six supportive housing units.

“We are not looking to increase a huge amount, but we want to have different levels of support for women as they are getting off the streets,” said Hayes. She added it could mean more supportive housing units and will give the organization more ability to help women.

The four-year-old document for the Samaritan House development lays out a vision and scope for the project. The idea is to consolidate two lots and create space so residents have greater freedom to transition in place, develop personally and then move into other housing. There would be supports like in-house education sessions and after care, where people can access support services and groups regardless of where they live.

Hayes said she’s not sure what the addition will ultimately look like with needs constantly changing, but flexibility will be built in. The project has already involved consultation with the neighbourhood, and a development consultant has been hired. Fundraising is expected for the project but Hayes doesn’t know at this point how much it will cost.

A city report shows there will also be an exterior renovation to Samaritan House and the city and society have reached a license of use and maintenance agreement for an unconstructed road right-of-way across the lane from the shelter. It will allow for three parking spaces. The organization will develop the area for the parking, construct a retaining wall and create a pedestrian trailway. There will also be a community garden, with the plants and garden features provided by the South End Community Association.