Friday, December 19, 2014
Last updated: 5 hours ago

Letter: AMS responds to Womyn’s Centre article

Re: Womyn’s Centre no longer to operate as a crisis shelter

In the Monday, July 16 edition of The Ubyssey, the paper ran an article entitled “Womyn’s Centre no longer to operate as a crisis shelter.” We wish to clarify a few misconceptions contained within the article.

When UBC raised concerns about women staying overnight in the Womyn’s Centre, the AMS contacted the Womyn’s Centre and discussions on how best to assist the woman mentioned in the article began between the Womyn’s Centre, SASC, Access and Diversity and AMS staff. At all times, the woman’s safety and wellbeing were the top priority of the AMS and VP Administration Caroline Wong.

With the immediate safety of the woman in mind, interim arrangements were made to allow her to remain in the Womyn’s Centre until suitable housing could be found. Additional security shifts were scheduled and a case manager from Access and Diversity was provided to connect the woman to appropriate resources. Due to the hard work of Caroline Wong and Womyn’s Centre coordinators Jannel Robertson and Emily Plommer, the woman was able to stay for two additional weeks.

While the Womyn’s Centre has a mandate to act as a safe space for women, it was not built to be a 24-hour emergency crisis shelter. Effective crisis shelters must have professional staff, counseling and financial support services, standard housing amenities such as showers and bedding, and an exceptionally secure and discreet environment. The Womyn’s Centre does not meet these criteria.

The requirements of the SUB lease agreement, building insurance, and the critical issue of personal safety in the case of an emergency also prevent the AMS from allowing people to sleep in the building overnight. The AMS did not change an existing policy; the Womyn’s Centre has never officially been a 24-hour space.

There is a need for an appropriately supported 24-hour crisis space for all types of people on UBC campus. A long term solution for the issue is still needed. This case should be the starting point for a discussion, not the end of it.

The Womyn’s Centre has an important role to play in advocating for this space. The AMS is fully supportive of this mission, and has already been in discussions with some university departments on this issue. We look forward to continuing to work together with the Womyn’s Centre to advocate for a fully supported 24-hour crisis space.

Below are resources identified by the AMS to support anyone in a similar crisis situation:

—AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre: It’s available to provide continual support and guidance and can be reached by phone (604) 827-5180, email at sasc@ams.ubc.ca or in person during business hours in SUB 119 A/B.
—BC 211: A referral line for shelters and other services. The number to dial on a phone is 211.
—Vancouver 24-Hour Crisis Line: (604) 827-2938

Matt Parson, AMS President

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article indicated that this letter was written “with participation from Womyn’s Centre Coordinators Jennie Roth and Emily Plommer.” Parson has since informed The Ubyssey that he is the only person who should be attributed.