TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TOWARDS WORKING WITH ATIRA.
My name is Dana and I’m one of seven Women’s Health and Safety Liaisons in the DTES. I worked for Atira Property Management Inc. since November 2012 and changed to Atira Women’s Resource Society approximately in 2015. I first started out as a Building Custodian and then did Front Desk Support at APMI. During my time with AWRS, I supported the Front Desk and worked as a Women’s Support Worker. Working as a Building Custodian, I worked in most of the buildings and was able to spend a lot of time chatting with tenants, even more so than during my front desk role.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, TELL US HOW YOU SEE VIOLENCE PRESENTS ITSELF IN THE EVERYDAY LIVES OF WOMEN ACCESSING OUR SERVICES.
When women lose their identifications cards, which can often happen when you are experiencing homelessness and violence, it prevents them from being able to access simple everyday things, including their money from banks. Especially with COVID restrictions, presenting identification has become required to enter most spaces and that has prevented women from being able to get support. Because of all the barriers that present itself when losing something as simple as identification, women need extra support to be able to attend appointments, including accompaniments.
I found dealing with [crisis and violent] situations right away while its happening is the best. I found that when staff on all shifts help take out garbage helps reduce pest and burn out for the cleaners, which helps with the mental well being of all tenants [because] they want to live in a clean environment, which in turn affects their behaviours.
On average, the Women’s Health and Safety team receive 353 visits and drop ins for support and provide over 60 hours of one-to-one direct support every month. Operating from a feminist, harm reduction and anti-oppression lens, the frontline staff through this program support women by fostering relationships built on trust, understanding and cooperation. We accompany women to medical and essential appointments, and help women address safety concerns and issues impacting their safety and well-being.
We check in with women at their convenience or when staff call us to let us know they are having a difficult time and needing extra support. We can refer them to resource to their needs. We also have shelters and emergency beds. Having medical Outreach services available and having our Outreach team connect with these supports weekly keeps us informed if their is violence happening to women living in the Single Occupancy Room (SRO) buildings and we can help prevent future abuse, working with Sister Watch and communicating about potential risks that folks may face in the community. We also have the support of Front Desk and Tenant Support Workers
WHAT CALL-TO-ACTION DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE TO THE COMMUNITY TO PREVENT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?
I would say use your experience, whatever it may be, to connect with women and build trust within your community. Getting to know and understand folks in our programs has helped our team especially foster meaningful relationships, which allows people to open up to us and ask us for help, which is just the first step in order to accessing support. Accepting you need help can help us prevent violence against women. Having seven of us out [in the Downtown Eastside] supporting women with our different areas of expertise, experience and diverse cultural backgrounds allows us to connect, build trust and rapport and that has helped us shape the work we do and how we provide support and safety plans for the women experiencing everyday violence.
Women’s Health and Safety Liaison
Women’s Health and Safety Program
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