Atira Women’s Resource Society, BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) and Community Impact Real Estate Society (CIRES) Announce Formation of Housing and Safety Working Group

Collaborative cross-sector working group announced at Housing to Hope: Housing and Safety Forum in Downtown Vancouver

February 13, 2024

Vancouver, B.C. | Unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam),  Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations |

Atira Women’s Resource Society, the BCNPHA and CIRES today announced the formation of a cross-sector working group that intends to act as a collaborative partner for the Province, municipalities and first responders to gain support for housing and safety-related initiatives.

The announcement took place at the Housing to Hope: Housing and Safety Forum hosted by the three organizations to bring together the unique perspectives of persons with lived expertise, business leaders, supportive housing representatives, first responders and municipalities.

“The forum represented a crucial opportunity for the sector and the community to come together and listen — to try and understand each other’s viewpoints and unique challenges,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of BC BCNPHA. “And we’re happy to say that it was a great success. It proved to be a very effective platform for in-depth discussions in a safe and collaborative environment where everyone had a genuine interest in what others had to say.”

The forum was also held with the specific intention of acting as a launchpad for a working group that would be inclusive and boast members from all parts of the sector and community.

“The Ministry of Housing’s own working document: Supporting the Downtown Eastside: Provincial Partnership Plan has as its first two goals Engaged Community – Clear, coordinated, and regular communication… in support of those most vulnerable; and, Safe Communities – Transition the DTES back to a safe and manageable area where all community members can thrive”, said Catherine Roome, Interim CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society. “Today we moved this forward from paper into action. We are incredibly thankful to all the representatives who attended and spoke at the forum — and to those who have committed to being active members of the working group. It’s important for us that the working group represent a true cross-section of the sector and community. Everyone needs to have a seat at the table.”

The working group will bring together representatives across the sector and community to ensure ongoing communication and collaboration. It is the goal that this group will play a meaningful role in policy advocacy and development, knowledge exchange, the development of best practices, emergency response coordination, resource mobilization and the development of new community engagement initiatives.

“By working together, we can create a more comprehensive and effective support system for individuals made vulnerable by policy failures. We are uniting in our commitment to building safer, more compassionate communities where every person has the opportunity to thrive and lead a fulfilling life,” said Andrea Reimer, Founder of Tawâw Strategies and Adjunct Professor of Practice at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.

“Housing societies and associations, as the entities that manage and maintain supportive housing facilities on behalf of the B.C Government, can help bring the sector together and encourage engagement among stakeholders and the community. Transparency, open communication and a commitment to the safety and well-being of residents and employees are paramount. Housing societies can act as catalysts for positive change by implementing community-building initiatives, fostering a sense of belonging and providing residents with the necessary support to thrive,” said Roome.

For images from the Housing to Hope: Housing Safety Forum click here.


Additional quotes:

Mebrat Beyene, Consultant and former Executive Director of WISH Drop-In Centre Society

“We know what needs to be done in order to better support those who are experiencing poverty, homelessness and lack of safety. Excellent recommendations and solutions are out there. We don’t need to keep asking the same questions. What’s needed is action. We need to act collaboratively across our varied sectors and perspectives and demand change.”

Fiona Wilson, Deputy Chief, VPD:

“Housing is a basic human right that everyone should have access to, so we must put the necessary supports in place to help address this need. We must address the conditions and challenges of the physical spaces that people are living in — we must make them safer.”

Karen Fry, Fire Chief, City of Vancouver: Sarah Blyth, Executive Director, Overdose Prevention Society

“We were called to nearly 400 fires in SROs last year — more than one fire a day. It is not a matter of “if” a fire will break out but when. Critical work needs to be done to improve living conditions, and if anyone is going to effect this change, it will be the people who were in the room at the Housing and Safety Forum today.”

Sarah Blyth, Executive Director, Overdose Prevention Society 

“People living in extreme poverty need access to the same utilities that we all do. This includes safe housing, but it also includes necessities like Internet access. One of the most common requests I hear from members in the community is Internet access that allows them to keep contact with family members, use apps like Lifeguard, and access public services that increasingly require web access.”

Tarah Whitley, Surrey Women’s Centre, Housing Outreach Worker 

“The lack of available housing is a tremendous issue for women fleeing domestic violence situations. We see women returning to their abusers because they simply have nowhere else to go. We do our best to help, but our organization — like others in the sector — need more access to funding. Without funding, it is impossible to address these issues in a widespread and meaningful way.”

Tanya Fader, Director of Programs, PHS Community Services Society “One of the key things we can’t control as supportive housing operators is the age of the buildings we manage. Age and use make it really difficult to maintain these buildings and bring them up to required health and safety levels. Significant improvements must be made in these old buildings in order for us to manage them safely and effectively.”

Aaron Munro, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) 

“The issues of housing and safety are inextricably linked. We won’t have safety as long as we have so many people forced to live on the street. But we don’t just need more supportive housing — we need environments that are truly safe, calm and quiet. Only by providing these kinds of environments can we allow people to heal.”

Landon Hoyt, Executive Director, Hastings Crossing BIA 

“We know what the solutions are to many of the challenges in areas like the DTES — we know what needs to be done. That’s why it’s so important for all stakeholders in the sector to come together and share that information with government and other groups who can help implement them. I’m very excited and encouraged to see so many sector leaders in one room. Only through collaboration will we be able to meaningful improve the lives of those dealing with extreme poverty.”

Wendy Pedersen, Executive Diretor, SRO Collaborative“Tenant empowerment and tenant-based initiatives are crucial to improving conditions in privately owned and operated SROs and creating a sense of community. One example is the SRO Collaborative’s recent tenant-based fire safety initiative, which has helped empower those living in privately owned SROs to play an active role in improving safety. This doesn’t replace professional property management, but it can enhance what is already being done.”


List of organizations that had speakers at the Forum:

  • Atira Women’s Resource Society
  • Aboriginal Mother Centre Society
  • BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA)
  • Community Impact Real Estate Society (CIRES)
  • Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
  • Hastings Crossing BIA
  • Lieutenant Governor of BC
  • Lifeguard Digital Health
  • Lu’ma Native Housing Society
  • Nch’ḵay̓ Development Corporation
  • Overdose Prevention Society
  • PHS Community Services Society
  • RainCity Housing and Support Society
  • Squamish Nation
  • SRO Collaborative
  • Surrey Women’s Centre Executive Director
  • Vancouver Fire Rescue Service
  • Vancouver Police Department Tawâw Strategies
  • WorkSafeBC


Atira operates 3,150 housing units for women, children and all gender individuals in the Lower Mainland. More information is available on our website here:


Media Contact:

Tyler Pronyk 604.807.0710

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