by Amrit Atwal, Manager of Women’s Safety & Outreach Program

Transition Houses are an essential service in helping women and their children escape violence.  The web of supports that women receive when staying in a Transition House allow women to break free of isolation and create an empowering community.  Transition Houses and the services they offer allow women the opportunity to resist violence and engage in discussions of their shared experiences.

As research from Statistics Canada indicates, over 1100 women and children residents of British Columbia stayed in Transition Houses in 2011.  Further analysis shows that 39% of women accessing Transition Houses had stayed in one before and 84% of these women had stayed within the last year.  On average seven out of ten women approximately 71% indicated they were leaving an abusive relationship.


These statistics indicate what many women’s groups already know, that Transition Houses are an essential resource needed by women fleeing violence.

What is a Transition House?

Transition Houses provide both long term and short term housing for women and children fleeing abusive relationships or at the risk of experiencing violence.

Transition Houses break the isolation that many women experience when they are in abusive relationships.  Transition Houses build a safe community environment where women are encouraged to share their experiences and empower one another.

Why are Transition Houses needed?

As research and statistics indicate, one of the main reasons that women stay in abusive relationships is because of financial limitations.  Transition Houses take away the stress of financial burdens by providing free shelter, meals and other resources so women can concentrate on building their independence.  When women are no longer worried about how they will feed and shelter themselves and their children they are able to concentrate on how to move forward with their lives.

What types of services can I expect to receive if I stay in a Transition House?

Transition House workers support women fleeing abusive relationships by providing emotional support and empathy.  Workers in some Transition Houses are able to assist women with applying for and securing income assistance as well as helping women navigate through legal systems in terms of child custody and divorce.  Women who stay in Transition Houses in British Columbia where Battered Women’s Support Services operates can also apply for BC Housing which is the provincial agency that manages and administers a wide range of subsidized housing options. Women staying in Transition Houses in BC can apply through BC Housing to receive priority placement; however, this does not guarantee women will receive housing within the 30 days of her stay. Housing providers have waitlists for applicants and the role of priority placement is to give women fleeing violence priority in this waitlist.  Housing providers differ from province to province so it is best to contact the Transition Houses directly in order to access this information.  Transition House workers as well as other advocates such as social workers or members of community groups can advocate for women and write letters of support to housing providers in attempts to speed up the housing process which also differs provincially.

Other services that can be offered at Transition Houses include and are not limited to: safety planning for both women and children, crisis intervention and support, access to emergency clothing, advocacy and referral services, accompaniment to appointments, community education, information about violence in relationships and counselling.

Who is eligible to stay in a Transition House?

Any woman fleeing violence is eligible to stay in a Transition House; however, they do differ on intake procedures and it is best to contact them directly in terms of eligibility.  Women of all cultural backgrounds, ages, and economic status are welcome in a Transition House. Women fleeing same-sex relationships should call Transition Houses directly in order to correctly determine eligibility as Transitions Houses differ on criteria. Due to the high number of women needing shelter in Transition Houses, they are unable to hold space for women so it is best to call when you are ready and prepared to leave.  If a transition house is fully occupied, workers will try to locate space for women in the nearest alternative transition house.

How long can I stay at a Transition House?

Women leaving an abusive situation can stay up to 30 days. During this time staff is available to assist and support women in exploring and making decisions by offering information and support.

What options are available to me after 30 days are over?

There are second and third stage housing options for women that are safe and affordable.  These housing options can provide longer term housing options for women and can accommodate stays to anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.  Transition House workers can assist women in seeking out these housing options during their stay.

What does a Transition House look like?

Transition Houses are regular houses maintained to Provincial Housing standards.  You can typically expect for Transition Houses to have a communal shared living area and kitchen and some provide access to laundry.  Women may have to share a bedroom or may have their own room depending on if they have children with them.  Transition Houses are not listed in address directories due to safety issues and to maintain their privacy.

I am ready to leave what should I take with me to the Transition House?

Women are encouraged to bring all legal documents such as identification (licence, social insurance card, care cards), passports (including those of children), birth certificates, any bank statements, credit and debit cards, lease/rental agreements and house deeds, marriage license, separation/divorce papers, immigration papers and peace bonds/restraining orders if applicable. Women can also bring clothes and other necessities for themselves and their children; however, not too much due to the limitation of space in Transition Houses.

If you and/or you know of any woman experiencing violence in her life, please refer to the following resource of our list of Transition Houses in Canada:

Helpful Links:


Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence in 2012. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.