Earlier this year, the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society unveiled their new name: Archway Society for Domestic Peace.
Sherry Demetrick, co-executive director of administration, explained that the change was due to the common misconception that the non-profit group’s sole purpose is to operate the women’s shelter.
“We’ve been doing this work in the community for over 40 years so it’s natural for people to know us as the women’s shelter but over the years, our programming has grown and we wanted a name that reflects that,” she said, noting that in 2018, the organization housed 177 women and 91 children.
“The main objective going forward is to raise awareness of all of our programs and our society as a as a whole because, as an organization, we are always growing and evolving.”
Archway runs 16 different programs in the North Okanagan including residential and community programming.
In addition to the 25 safe shelter beds offered through the Transition House, other services include: child support activities and where possible, child care, meals and laundry facilities, recreational opportunities, transportation to appointments, accompaniment to appointments, referrals to community services and donations of clothing and household goods.
The society also has arrangement with the Ministry of Children & Family Development and provides up to two beds for teens in emergency situations. These are situations where the teen is at risk and there are no other options for them.
Other residential programs include providing support to young parents.
“We have an apartment building that has seven suites. This program supports pregnant teens and young moms,” said Demetrick. “It is such an incredible program as it works to break the cycle of abuse and neglect. Our staff help these young moms learn to cook, budget, look after their babies and teach them coping strategies and life skills to empower them to successfully rebuild their lives.”
They also offer a Homelessness Prevention Program that works with women that are at risk of homelessness. Through this program, staff work to develop relationships with landlords and assist women in finding and maintaining housing. Demetrick said, with the current housing crisis, demand for housing is huge and there is usually a wait list for this program.
Another service, offered through the Vernon court house, is called the Community Based Victims Services program. CBVS provides justice system related support to women, children and men who have experienced relationship violence, sexual assault or criminal harassment. Services include court orientation and accompaniment at trial, assistance with Crime Victim Assistance Program applications, risk assessment and safety planning and referral to other services. CBVS has over 450 open files and help an average of 50 clients a month.
The Oak Centre is the newest program and has been operating since 2015 as a Child and Youth Advocacy Center for the North Okanagan. The focus of this program is to help children and youth victims of physical and sexual abuse. It is a stand alone program that provides a safe and child-centered environment where children and youth who have experienced physical or sexual abuse or witnessed a crime are more comfortable to share their story with the police or social workers.
“In the past they would have to be interviewed in an interrogation room at the RCMP detachment, which obviously is not ideal,” said Demetrick, who explained that, since the Oak Centre opened, staff have seen an average of one child every two days.
All services are provided free of charge and are funded by a variety of federal and provincial ministries as well as other funders and donations. For a detailed list of services and programs offered, visit archwaysociety.ca.
“We’ve really been flying under the radar in the community and we’d like that to change because if the community at large doesn’t know who we are, then the women who need our services likely don’t know about our services either,” Demetrick said. “That needs to change.”
Archway Society for Domestic Peace is located at 2400 46th Ave., in Vernon. To contact staff, call 250-558-3850. Help is available 24/7 including holidays.
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