Hilltop Court Housing Elizabeth Fry Society - talking about transitions over lasagna

The lasagna and salads were such a success the week before at Elizabeth Court, we placed the same order to be delivered to our workshop at Hilltop Court on the North Shore. We ordered less as there were just too many leftovers to take home. This time, about 12 women and up to 5 children joined us for dinner and the mapping workshop, Jacqueline, the housing coordinator, personally invited many of the women. Here, we met women from many walks of life - but most who were in transition. Some were new to the city fleeing domestic abuse and others were transitioning back into their families after incarceration. Many had children and all expressed how safe they felt at Hilltop. Again, these were very confident and knowledgeable women who offered their time and expertise to us. 

The individual maps scattered across the tables largely served as placemats for the Italian dinner! A few women off to the side spoke quietly and individually with Emily and Laurel, while the main table shouted out directions to me for what I should mark down on the large map. It was clear these women knew how important this knowledge was to share. We marked many of the emergency community services that the other groups had listed, particularly those on North Shore that were relatively close to their homes. The library was important as was Ask Wellness - both which have branches on south and north shores for access. 

A clear and deliberate list of services was provided at Hilltop as specialist knowledge for other women in transition:

  • Family Tree Services
  • ASK Wellnes
  • Interior Community Services
  • Pregnancy Care Centre
  • Crossroads Inn
  • John Tod Centre

A longer discussion focused on the services of Family Tree. One woman was a volunteer mentor there now, having previously benefited from the integrated services. Family Tree was a 'one stop shop' unlike many of the others - 'running here for this or across town for that.' Without wanting to be too specific, the women explained that some of the good services had 'bad guys' running them. WHY ARE THERE NO WOMEN SPECIFIC SERVICES? If you have previously experienced trauma from violence or additions, you are not going to feel safe when they have to go to places where you have to be around active drug users or aggressive men. 

One women explained that she did not feel safe anywhere other than inside her apartment and another woman expressed the opposite. There was no where in Kamloops that she "felt unsafe." "But when you are with your children, that's another story," she told us.

Another two great suggestions came from this group. 1. Lets make this map available to all women on the street. We started working on design ideas for a social enterprise project to make over the shoulder courier bags - practical, durable and fashionable - with all the emergency information one might need printed on the inside. We could load it up with emergency supplies like vaginal cups, baby wipes, toothbrush, clean undies and socks and a few food items. 2. A food service map should be created as a separate thing. This is an issue about food security and access to programs but also to public fruit trees and gardens.  

This group had many divergent responses and became animated in discussion with each other. Later, I was told that this group did not often get a chance to get together - alway busy with children and work. The conversational element of the mapping project had intrinsic value and was successful as a social engagement project.