Women’s Safety Remains a Crucial Need: On the Balmoral Eviction

Jun 8, 2017

Balmoral Hotel
Photo: CBC News

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC) has long been an advocate for safe housing for women in the DTES. In the midst of the uncertainty and anxiety faced by many Balmoral tenants regarding the eviction notice, we stand in support with women, with tenants, and with DEWC members. One member has been a Balmoral tenant since 1989, and the sudden eviction notice has come as a huge shock. For the past decade we have raised the particular challenges for women in SROs, including violence against women, women sharing bathrooms and showers with men, and living in rooms with doors that do not lock resulting in inappropriate access to their rooms by building staff or other tenants. Critically, women in the DTES have petitioned the City to include bars on windows in DTES SRO’s to minimize the horrific violent incidents of women being thrown out of SRO windows.

While the Balmoral is unequivocally not safe for women, forcing people into other unsafe or inappropriate housing so quickly exacerbates tenant concerns. This relocation plan must prioritize the safety and timelines especially of women given the unique challenges and barriers women face finding safe, appropriate and livable housing.

Calling upon decision makers to ensure the following is integral to our mission as an organization:

  • That women are guaranteed permanent safe housing; not temporary, shelter or transitional housing;
  • That women are offered housing that is renting at social assistance/disability shelter rates;
  • That women are offered the option of moving to women-only housing. Conversely, that no woman is moved to women-only housing should she choose to be in all-genders housing;
  • Women are not separated from their possessions or pets in the relocation plan; and
  • Tenant Relocation and Protection guidelines are upheld, including the financial compensation owed to tenants and obligating the landlords to provide this in cash or certified cheques before the evacuation date.

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre is consistently raising the issue of centering a gender lens in housing policy. For example, while the City’s homeless count is used by multiple stakeholders in decision making, it does not address the particular vulnerabilities of women who are in unsafe housing but not street homeless. This results in an under-representation of women in the homelessness count.

A women’s safety audit in the Downtown Eastside, “Getting to the Roots: Exploring Systemic Violence Against Women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver,” indicated that twenty-five percent of respondents do not feel safe in their place of residence. This is a stark reminder that ensuring women’s safety must be a central mandate for all levels of government, not just women-serving organizations. 

For tenant-driven breaking news on the Balmoral, follow The Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative on Facebook.