No Housing, No Escape (BWSS’ Housing Campaign)

We are in a housing crisis. Providing immediate access to housing is crucial for women fleeing domestic violence.

We address the current impact of the housing crisis on domestic violence survivors, emphasizing the need for improvements in social and affordable housing support, and highlight the critical necessity of second stage housing. We also share exciting news about the BWSS’ Housing Campaign.

How can survivors escape violence during a housing crisis?

When a woman escapes domestic violence, creating a safety plan and securing temporary housing is a crucial first step in ensuring the safety of woman and her children. However, did you know that in BC, only 4% of women placed in transition homes are able to leave for an affordable home? While 25% of women may find housing, mostly beyond their means, and the remaining 75% of women remain temporarily sheltered or return to their abuser.

Battered Women’s Support Services have worked with many women, who have left their homes with nothing. In order to have the safe housing they need, they must apply for income assistance and they are expected to find housing they can afford. With income assistance rates well under the poverty line, a two-bedroom apartment in the lower mainland currently renting for upwards of $3,500.00 is unattainable.

Shelters, safe houses, and transition houses are operating at over-capacity, turning away approximately 200 people each night. It is imperative to provide women fleeing domestic violence with swift access to emergency shelters and housing.

Research has shown that housing remains one of the leading barriers for women escaping violence and that domestic violence is one of the main causes of homelessness among Canadian families. Women’s homelessness is vastly underestimated and often hidden. Women are often among the “invisible homeless”, over-represented in shelters and transition houses.

Women may experience ‘episodic homelessness’ as they move in and out of abusive situations and stay at Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters. However, due to these episodic occurrences, retrieving accurate data on women’s homelessness caused by domestic abuse is challenging. Official data sources only account for street and shelter homelessness, failing to recognize women couch surfing or staying at VAW shelters as homeless. Other reasons why women do not show up in the data is because DV survivors are reluctant to access mixed gender shelters for safety reasons; most homeless shelters are not equipped with domestic violence supports and staff; and some homeless shelters will not accommodate women fleeing violence. While there is a general recognition of the connection between VAW housing and homelessness, the VAW shelter sector has had limited engagement with the housing and homelessness sectors.

Overall, existing social and affordable housing models, along with the delivery of these services, create challenges for survivors of domestic violence to find, secure, and maintain safe and affordable housing. Primarily, the lack of social and affordable housing units results in long wait times. DV survivors can access special priority status to obtain housing more quickly, however the eligibility process can be cumbersome and may prevent some women from attaining housing. For instance, the requirement of proof of cohabitation may be inaccessible to women whose abusers kept this information hidden from them. Furthermore, proving one’s experience of abuse can be demoralizing and re-victimizing for survivors.


Recommendations for Improvement

Improvements in social and affordable housing support are essential, beginning with expanding eligibility criteria and minimizing bureaucratic barriers for priority status. This ensures that all domestic violence survivors can access social and affordable housing.

There is a need to revise current funding definitions of homelessness to be more inclusive of women, acknowledging that their homelessness is often invisible and that:


Women who experience violence in their own homes are homeless


Women who flee violence are homeless


Women who stay in women’s shelters are homeless


Women who couch surf with family, friends, and strangers are homeless;

Recommendations for Improvement: Second Stage Housing

Equally crucial are programs designed for long-term that are women-centered and trauma-informed. VAW second stage housing, also known as transitional housing, is a form of extended housing assistance offered to domestic violence survivors transitioning from emergency shelter to long-term housing. Second Stage Transition House programs provide a tangible solution for women fortunate enough to have the opportunity to stay in this stable housing environment for up to 2 years.

However, the demand for Second Stage programs exceeds availability, highlighting the need for more vacancies to accommodate the number of women seeking to participate in these programs. The long wait for a woman to secure housing after leaving a violent situation and entering a transition house poses a significant barrier. It becomes a crucial factor in determining whether or not she chooses to return to her previous relationship, especially when confronted with the possibility of homelessness after completing her stay in a transition house.

Evidently, VAW second stage housing offers various services and supports for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. However, nationally, second stage shelters often receive significantly less funding than first stage or emergency shelters, particularly in terms of funding for services and support. While funding may be allocated for constructing new shelters or making repairs, the operational services are often not adequately funded. Increasing support for second stage housing would make a significant difference in addressing the housing needs of survivors of domestic violence.


BWSS’ Housing Campaign

We are very close to completing our dream to provide second stage transitional housing for survivors of violence. Your support can help us turn this dream into a reality and fulfill the dreams of survivors to have a safe place to call home.

In the midst of a housing crisis, an increasing number of survivors are trapped in abusive households without access to resources or a safe haven. Join us in making a lasting impact by providing support and resources to survivors. Your donation, no matter how big or small, will make a significant difference in addressing the housing needs of survivors of domestic violence. Donate today to change the lives of women and children because A Safe Home Changes Everything.

You can help us continue to offer these important first response services

Provide hope, inspiration, and a real opportunity for each and every woman and girl that calls us.

BWSS Provides


Crisis & Intake Line


Indigenous Women’s Program


My Sister’s Closet


Advancing Women’s Awareness Regarding Employment (AWARE) Program


Counselling and Victim Services


Black Women’s Program


The Justice Centre at BWSS: Legal Services, Advocacy, and Law Reform


Professional Presentations and Training


Safety Changes Everything Outreach Team


Latin American Women’s Program


Violence Prevention & Intervention Volunteer Training


Research and Policy Analysis