Updated: Sep 6, 2022
When the Centre first opened in 1983 I think it’s safe to say that it was really born out of two things: firstly, an awareness sparked by the second wave of feminism with its focus on issues of equality and discrimination; and secondly, by the very demographics of our community. At the time Campbell River’s economy was resource based. Industries such as logging, mining and fishing provided well paid jobs to a (for the most part) male workforce. Recreational and cultural opportunities also, at least to my eyes, seemed centred on male-driven interests. In other words, at the time, Campbell River was not a particularly woman or child friendly community. In short, our founding mothers, in the way of women all over the world, identified a need in their community and set about addressing it.
In its earliest incarnations the Centre became a haven to young moms; mostly working class and middle class white women. Their focus was on addressing issues of systemic oppression and personal empowerment. However, in the years that followed, the Centre’s focus began to shift as successive provincial governments made changes to the social safety net and poverty issues began to dominate the life of the Centre.
Today, 30 years on, I’d estimate that at least 90% of the women who visit the Centre each month are living at or below the poverty line. Many of our clients are navigating multiple barriers to their full participation in our community -not the least of which is poverty- and homelessness (or the threat of it) hangs over our clients' heads. We are seeing more and more women who are staying in unsafe situations because they know that the stock of safe, affordable housing in Campbell River is extremely limited.
Nowadays, much of the work we do at the Centre consists of addressing poverty related needs. We run a free clothing store, provide free hygiene supplies, run an all-day breakfast corner, distribute free bread, provide internet access and mail-drop services. We also work with Rose Harbour to provide access to free shower facilities, because staying clean is a major challenge for women who are experiencing “absolute” homelessness.