Sexual assaults at Downtown Eastside homeless shelter ignored, women’s groups say

Women have been sexually assaulted at a Vancouver homeless shelter, according to a coalition of women’s groups.

The coalition claims that reports of assaults at the First United Church shelter in the Downtown Eastside have been ignored by operators.

When reached for comment, Sandra Severs, a spokesperson for the First United Church, denied that her organization didn’t pay attention to such reports.

“There have been some alleged assaults but they haven’t been ignored,” Severs told the Straight by phone today (February 25).

In a news release, the coalition of women’s groups says that the Vancouver Police Department confirmed in 2010 that six sexual assaults were reported at the shelter.

“Frontline workers had been receiving reports directly from women as well over the past several months, many of whom have relayed that the lack of concern about their well-being in the church shelter is similar to the colonial and paternalistic attitude experienced in residential schools,” the coalition states.

The coalition is composed of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, WISH Drop-In Centre, Power of Women Group, and the Battered Women’s Support Services.

The coalition will hold a press conference on Monday (February 28) at 515-119 West Pender Street.



we have no name

Feb 25, 2011 at 12:29pm

I have worked in the govt - I have heard the comments from the peoplewho are suppose to be helping these people. But, even now fn women have been branded like they mean nothing and what ever they say is a lie and they deserve what they get - do you thing anything will be done NOOOOOO and they will be made to believe that they get what they deserve. And then they will laugh at what happened. When I reported an assault they did nothing but ask me if I didnt just have a fight with my boyfriend. This will never stop if the people who are suppose to be on the victims side keep saying that they deserved to be raped or killed that is why sooooooo many fn women are dying and no one really cares.

fn they dont listen to us

Feb 25, 2011 at 1:22pm

When you see this type of news - check where the papers put it - it is usually hidden somewhere - but, when a caucasion or another immigrant group is killed or hurt they make the front page., The one near UBC made headlines for days. When someone else that is FN they make the small print goes to show you what the news papers and the people of bc and Canada think and this post will probably not show up as they dont want to print something that is the truth

Terry Morgan

Feb 25, 2011 at 2:12pm

I'm glad that this has come to some-ones attention. I had heard from a friend that she was sexually assaulted over a year ago, and she wasn't the only one at that time. I think she was to ashamed to report it. I felt safer sleeping outside in the cold then to be in a freaken shelter where you are not safe. what's the point of the shelter if they can't provide safety.

shelter wrkr

Apr 10, 2011 at 8:29am

I am a front line wrkr in the shelter. The sexual assaults were assaults- not rapes, and they were reported to police by the shelter along with the women involved. I personally spent many hours convincing more than one of the victims to speak to police, break the code of silence, and follow through with charges etc. This is the usual practice at the co ed shelter. We Never ignore reports of abuse toward anyone. There is an underlying political agenda at work here, and the press is sensationalizing and being manipulated to further their cause. There are currently women only shelter beds that are consistently empty in the downtown eastside. Would it not be more practical to address why they are not being used before pouring much needed funds into a facillity that duplicates services?