Homeless women protest at Downtown Eastside Womens Centre
On Sunday November 19, 2006 at 5:00pm when the Centre closed, over 30 women refused to leave insisting that the Centre remain open for 24 hours a day. This protest was led by the Elders who have been walking through ourstreets in the evenings caring for women.
“We have been telling them (staff) for years that we need this. Every night we see women sleeping on the streets and men abusing them on the streets. Last week a woman was raped in front of the bottle depot on Hastings. We need a place for our women to go at night. The Centre must stay open!” Bernie Williams, Elders Helper.
On the night of the 19th over 40 homeless women used the Centre for shelter and over 120 used the Centre as a respite from the cold and wet weather. The following night over 50 homeless women needed a safe dry place to sleep. Women who used the Centre were not the same ones who use the Drop In during the day – they are young and very very sick.
The Centre prides itself as a member driven organization, we have known that there is a need for womens only 24/7 place and have been asking government to fund such a place. The funders have been supportive of the Drop In over the years, the conditions are changing rapidly and the support for a 24/7 space has not materialized for various reasons. It is time for the Centre to take action and to stop making excuses and take responsibility to do what is needed to keep women safe and healthy.
As of 10 am on Friday November 24, 2006 the Downtown Eastside Womens’ Centre will be open 24/7 for as long as we can. Each night up to 60 women will have a safe and dry place to go. This is exciting and at the same time distressing because no-one should have to sleep on the floor at the Centre. It is exciting because women of the downtown eastside rose up, spoke up and refuse to accept any less. They have supported each other in so manyways, they brought blankets from their own homes, helped the women who were extremely ill, cooked and cleaned. While it is not clear how long we can sustain this action we have no doubt that this is the right thing to do.