At the core of Haven Society is a simple belief: “We believe all people are entitled to live a violence-free life.”
Those are the words of Dawn Clark who works at Haven Society – an organization that provides escape and support for those affected by family violence and other types of violence, as well as a variety of other services.
And while violence affects everyone, it disproportionately affects some more than others.
Haven Society clients are women, mothers and their children, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of colour, Indigenous people, immigrants, those with physical disabilities, and those in poverty, to name a few.
“These are the folks who often receive negative social responses, and quite often aren’t able to articulate what they need from the powers that be,” says Clark, the director of education, quality improvement and special projects at Haven.
First incorporated in 1978, Haven Society started as an answer to the growing awareness that violence and abuse within the family was a reality for many women and children in the community.
To provide a safe place for these women and children, community volunteers took them in to their own homes.
Now more than 40 years later, Haven Society provides a constellation of services, says Clark, including a transition house, a safe house, counselling services, a community victim services program that helps victims navigate the legal system, outreach, counselling to children who have experienced violence, rent supplements and subsidies, and much more.
Since 2013, Haven has also operated in the Parksville/Qualicum area, opening Haven House there in collaboration with the Society for Organized Services (SOS).
Working from feminist principles, Haven seeks to promote the integrity and safety of women, children, youth and families, and the development of a respectful and healthy community.
It also serves as a link to services offered by other organizations.
“I’m really proud that somebody can walk in through the front door here and not really know what they need, but we can support them in trying to figure that out,” says Clark. Whether the person needs supports through Haven, another organization or a combination of organizations, Haven is there to help, she says.
“We care for the community, we care for the people who walk through our doors.”
That willingness to work with other organizations is reflected in their longstanding membership with the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition, having been involved with the group even before that was its name.
Haven is an important representative at the table, as violence is absolutely linked to homelessness, says Clark.
“When families are experiencing violence, when women and children, for instance, come into our transition house or our safe home … the security of their housing is at risk because they’ve left their family home due to violence,” says Clark.
“Once you leave your home because of a violent situation, you are at risk of becoming homeless.”
By being at the NHC table, Haven is able to have the needs of their clients heard.
“If I’m a mom, I’ve left [the family home] and I’ve got a couple of kids, I need to find a home, I need to put food on the table, I need to clothe them before I can even lift my gaze to think about other things. I need to make sure everybody is safe,” says Clark.
And with such low rental rates in Nanaimo as well as Parksville and Qualicum, a single mom with kids is rarely a landlords first choice, she says.
That’s one reason why what Haven Society does is so important.
If you are looking for a way to support your community, volunteering or donating to Haven Society is a great way to do it.
To donate, go to www.havensociety.com/donations , or call 250-756-2452.
To reach Haven Society’s crisis line, call 250-756-0616, or toll-free at 1-888-756-0616.