Our Herstory

In the summer of 1982, seven women and one man met at South Surrey / White Rock Women’s Place and came up with a plan to create a transition house for battered women and their children.

1983 - 1984

The Society was incorporated under the Society Act of British Columbia on March 10th, 1983 and registered with Revenue Canada as a charitable organization in 1984.


In 1987, the Society opened its first transition house, Durrant House (formerly known as Atira House), in the South Surrey/White Rock community.


The Society expanded its services in 1993 to include The Family Project, a support program for children who have witnessed and/or experienced abuse.


In 1997, two new programs were added; Shimai House, a transition house for women also struggling with their use of substances, and the Koomseh Second-Stage Program, 11 units of longer-term transition housing for women who need/want additional support in their efforts to live independent of violence/abuse.


In 2000, three new programs were added including a senior women’s outreach program based in South Surrey/White Rock, ReDiscover Parenting: a parenting program for women who have experienced violence/abuse, and the Aboriginal Women’s Outreach Program.


In 2001 Atira was subcontracted by Bridge Housing Society for Women to provide programming and property management services at its emergency shelter and permanent, supported housing programs for women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.


In 2003 the Society took a lead role and hired staff to facilitate the development of the Maxxine Wright Place Project for high risk pregnant and early parenting women.


Also in 2003 Atira launched Enterprising Women Making Art, a community economic development project for women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.


In January 2004, Atira opened the doors of Ama House, a specialized transition house for older women, 55+ years.


The Society hired a Wraparound Coordinator in April 2004 who worked specifically with high risk pregnant and early parenting women in Surrey, White Rock, Langley and Delta. This program is no longer funded.


In 2004, Atira started a Legal Advocacy program in the Downtown Eastside. A lawyer is available to support women in the area needing legal assistance.


The Society received funding for a Stopping the Violence Counsellor in April 2005.


The Maxxine Community Health Centre was opened in September 2005. We are working in partnership with Fraser Health, the Ministry for Children and Family Development, and OPTIONS: Services to Community Society.


Sereena’s House for Women was opened November 27, 2006 in the Downtown Eastside.


The Painter Sisters, an employment-based social enterprise initiative of Atira Women’s Resource Society, began providing training and employment opportunities for women who have barriers to employment in 2007.


The Rice Block opened in 2008, providing housing for women who are contemplating substance abstinence. Based on a harm reduction model, Rice Block supports women to live clean and sober. They also have a community garden next door on land purchased by Atira in 2010.


Kyé7e Housing for Women opened in 2009 providing housing for 11 women 45+ who can live independently in the Downtown Eastside.

The Holbrook Block in 2009 was opened as a program of Atira, providing housing for women in New Westminster. Holbrook Block closed December 2011.

The Marr (now Secord Housing for Women), which opened in 2009, provides housing for women 55+ in the Downtown Eastside.


SisterSpace opened in the Sereena Housing for Women building in the early spring of 2011 to provide a safe overnight space for women on the streets.

Maxxine Wright Place Project has opened in stages, and now provides a Community Health Centre, 12-bed Shelter, 24-unit second stage program and Early Care and Learning Centre. The last phase opened in 2011.

Sorella Housing for Women opened April 2011, providing 108 units of long-term supportive housing for women, including 12 units for women with their young children.

Ginseng Transition Housing for Women opened in June 2011 and offered seven low barrier short-term (2-5 days) emergency shelter beds for women in the Downtown Eastside. Ginseng is currently closed for redevelopment.

Imouto Housing for Young Women has provided housing to up to 16 young women in the downtown eastside since September 2011.

2012 + 2013

Burnaby Housing for Elder Women opened in April 2012 and provides 22 independent living units for women 55 and older. It was renamed to Margaret’s (Maggie’s) Housing for Elder Women in July 2013.

Oneesan Housing for Women a recycled shipping container housing development dropped its shipping containers on-site at 502 Alexander Street on November 30, 2012, marking the first of its kind in Canada. The 12 self-contained units were completed and unveiled on August 1, 2013 and residents moved in September 1, 2013.

Our Name

Inspired by The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art which was on tour across Canada at the time, they chose the name Atira. The Dinner Party is a massive ceremonial banquet arranged on a triangular table celebrating important woman from herstory. Atira is one of 1,038 women honoured at the banquet. Known as “Vault of the Sky,” Atira is Mother Earth in the belief system of the Pawnee, a First Nation whose traditional territory spanned the Great Plains in what is now called Nebraska and Kansas. Atira was the wife and partner of Tirawa, the creator god. She represented strength and power, without being war like. The Dinner Party is on permanent display at The Brooklyn Museum.