Making a positive contribution
Inside a maroon, textured scrapbook, newspaper clippings, stories and photos of ribbon cuttings and cheque presentations displays a brief history of the Comox Valley Transition Society.
What’s inside the scrapbook — which has been dusted off in celebration of the organization’s milestone — holds extra meaning this year, as the society is celebrating its 25th anniversary, while Lilli House, the shelter for women and their children escaping abusive relationships, turns 20.
“We’ve learned a lot over the years,” said Anne Davis, program co-ordinator for the society. “We have a much better ability to support the diverse population.”
What began as a one-employee organization in a small office has grown to 40 employees in four worksites and the Too Good To Be Threw Thrift Shop in downtown Courtenay.
“Literally thousands of women have come through Lilli House or through our wide range of other programs,” explained Davis.
She said almost 2,000 children have come through Lilli House in the past 20 years, and many more through counselling programs. The non-profit agency is committed to making a positive contribution to the lives of women and their children through programs which provide safety and security and the prevention of violence.
She noted the CVTS began when a group of community members saw the need for women who needed a place to go to for women who have experienced abuse in relationships and for their children.
A change in government in 1992 made way for funding for safe homes and staffing, and with various federal and community partnerships, the society was able to create Lilli House, explained Heather Ney, executive director of CVTS.
The facility has 11 beds for transitional living, and three beds for addiction recovery.
“The need is great,” noted Ney. “We have women who are ready to leave, but they simply have nowhere to go.”
Davis explained women who use the society and resources at Lilli House come from across the socioeconomic spectrum.
“Many are from the middle class; they are those who are not able to have access to a home or bank accounts if they leave a relationship. They just can’t afford to rent,” she said. “Women’s options and their ability to secure affordable housing are becoming more and more limited.”
Over the past 25 years, Ney said CVTS has evolved and adapted to the needs within the community, which includes creating a partnership with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to offer recovery beds as a result of identifying the needs.
CTVS also provides programs such as a 24-hour crisis line, Children Who Witness Abuse counselling and services for food, transportation and advocacy.
They also administer the contract for Victim Services through the Comox Valley RCMP.
“We wanted to take it on because we felt it was a good fit without values,” Ney added.
Two newer services developed by CVTS is the thrift shop and the Valley-wide Peace Begins at Home purple ribbon campaign to help end family violence.
“An opportunity was presented and there was suggestion to take over (the space for a thrift store),” explained Ney. “We wanted to be generating a sustainable revenue stream in uncertain times, particularly with funding.”
In addition to increasing and improving the presence and awareness of the CVTS, she added funds raised from Too Good To Be Threw help to maintain the level of service delivery and increase hours of counselling available.
“We’re very thrilled how the community has responded,” noted Ney.
Davis said moving forward, the CVTS hopes to develop a form of secondary stage support, a form of affordable transition housing for women.
“We would love to have a piece of property and some resources to create a facility for single women and children,” she noted. “It could be available to a range of ages with different size units and be very child-friendly.”
Prevention programs, such as the purple ribbon campaign and school visits help spread the core message, added Davis.
“We know we’re not going to solve the problem, but we need people — especially men and boys — to speak out.”
For more information on the Comox Valley Transition Society, visit www.cvts.ca or call 250-897-0511.