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Safe spaces to reassure homeless women

Article from Le Devoir

Shelters for mixed homeless people note the fear of women when they arrive and say they do everything they can to reassure them. Among those responsible who responded to Le Devoir, we make no secret of it: the safety of women is a constant concern. During the pandemic, several mixed resources emerged in arenas, hotels and churches. Some are just camp beds separated by plywood boards. These places generally have a section reserved for women near the speakers' desk or administration, where it is possible to ensure increased supervision. Other shelters have closed rooms, on different floors. In all cases, responders or security guards make rounds to ensure safety. “As soon as they arrive, they ask where they are going to be to ensure that they are going to be in a place where they feel safe,” explains Tania Charron, director of Ricochet, a mixed shelter of Action Jeunesse de l'Ouest-de-l'Île. “They name it [their discomfort being with men] the second they arrive. And even when they don’t name it, we see it on their faces,” adds the shelter’s clinical coordinator, Arly Ducatel. At L'Aiguillage, a mixed resource located in Montérégie, the general director, John Gladu, also notes that women are uncomfortable when they arrive and that they ask a lot of questions about what is put in place to ensure their safety. He claims to have put everything in place to “reassure the ladies” who come to the resource. Here, the women are installed in separate rooms, near the workers, in a wing separated from the men by a locked door. A device signals the movements of the door, which allows workers to be on the lookout when they move through the corridors. “I can tell you that homeless accommodation is very sensitive to the situation of women,” says John Gladu, who considers himself lucky to have infrastructure that allows him such arrangements.

Create safe spaces

At Hôtel-Dieu, a former hospital converted into an accommodation center for homeless people, they also say they are taking all means to ensure the safety of women. There are floors for men, a floor reserved for couples and another for women. There is no circulation between floors, and rounds are made regularly to ensure that everyone is in their bed. “We have not had any incidents of this type reported to us,” says Marie-Pier Therrien, director of communications at the Old Brewery Mission. At the Bunker, which welcomes young people under 21 in Montreal, we say we are very sensitive to the fears that people may have, particularly due to their past experience. Being a small shelter allows for personalized intervention, explains the director of prevention and clinical programs at Dans la rue, Marie-Noëlle L’Espérance. If we know, for example, that a person has had a problem with another resident, we will make sure not to receive both people at the same time. Everything is put in place — within the limits of possible — to create “a safe space,” she says. “We talk about a “feeling of security” because, sometimes, it is not security that is in question, but there is a feeling of insecurity that can set in, and we must always do so. take into account, adds Marie-Noëlle L’Espérance. The situation can be experienced by someone one way, and their emotion is valid. So if she's afraid, it's valid. And the speakers will adapt to the way it is felt. »


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