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Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group

The Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group formed in 2013 in response to a beating death of a woman, Janice Shore, who was homeless in Surrey. As her story emerged afterwards, it became clear that Janice's struggles with mental illness and addictions had increased her vulnerability and the challenges that she faced to meet her daily needs and stay safe.

The tragic and unnecessary death was a catalyst for action in the community as it became evident that Janice was not unique in her struggles. Non-profit agencies and government representatives came together to pool their knowledge and build their understanding of the unmet needs and challenges faced by vulnerable females in Surrey. They became the Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls (SVWG) Working Group.

Virtually all participants spoke of the importance of having some women only services in Surrey [...] Providing women only services allows women to feel safe enough to consider making positive changes in their lives.

Source: In Their Own Words Report
 

Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group (SVWG)

The goal of the SVWG is to take a proactive approach to supporting vulnerable women and girls in Surrey.

Since the Working Group has formed, it has conducted research, initiated colalborative planning and monitoring projects, offered anti-stigma training, fostered new cross-sectoral relationships and strategically supported the service sector.

Currently the Working Group consists of representatives from a broad range of service agencies and government ministries primarily focused on health, safety and support services for women and girls in Surrey. Members include:

 

Current Projects

Progressive Opioid Dialogues, 2017 - 2018

As is happening across BC, Surrey is experiencing a crisis in illicit drug overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanyl. Surrey has consistently seen the second highest number of overdose deaths in BC. Although women represent a small proportion of illicit drug overdose deaths in Surrey, vulnerable females in Surrey face unique barriers and have needs that are currently not being well met.

In 2017 - 2018, SVWG will be hosting a series of community dialogues on opioid use in Surrey with a focus on vulnerable women. These dialogues will help to inform future efforts in supporting vulnerable women in Surrey. Activities will unfold progressively over 8 months under the direction of the SVWG, and with on-going guidance from women with lived experience in Surrey. Dialogue activities include:

  • Dialogues with vulnerable women affected by opioid use: a series of 3 - 5 sessions will involve approximately 25 - 40 women (including youth). Facilitated sessions will be held at social service locations such as shelters, women's centres, transition houses or drop-ins.
     
  • Coffee shop dialogue pilots: these will involve one or two women affected by opioid use having a conversation with one or two women from the community. The latter will be women who are open and respectful, and truly interested in listening. It is expected they will take their experience back to their broader community.
     
  • SVWG Leaders' Forum: at an SVWG Leaders' Forum on Vulnerable Women and Girls, organizers will provide a presentation on the opioid dialogues.

Using a Gender Lens to Understand the Current Homeless Crisis in Surrey, 2016-2017

Service providers in Surrey are speaking out about the growing numbers of people who are homeless and on the streets in the city. What they are also noticing is that a larger than usual proportion of this population is female. This is unusual because the homeless population in Surrey is typically predominantly male. The SVWG Working Group would like to understand what is changing and why there are a growing number of women who are homeless in Surrey.

In November - December 2016, the SVWG conducted research with service providers and women in Surrey who are experiencing homelessness. In December a Collaborative Workshop was convened with over 30 community leaders. The workshop shared research results, and started to identify priorities and plan a community response.

Completed Projects

Enhancing Safety of Women and Girls on the Street, 2015-2016

This project facilitated a collaborative planning process, with the goal of improving access to services for street-engaged women and girls in Surrey. The City received funding for this project from Violence Free BC, an initiative of the Victim’s Services and Crime Prevention Division of the Ministry of Justice, to develop this innovative partnership. Read more in the summary document or below:.

Workshops: The SVWG held three half-day workshops during 2015. Participants reviewed research findings contained in the "In Their Own Words" report, listened to presentations about best practices and strategized together to identify priority projects. Over 50 people representing 24 government and non-profit organizations attended.

Reference Group: Workshop participants were supported by a Reference Group of women and youth who have had street experience in Surrey. The Reference Group met several times over the course of the project to provide input, ideas and feedback. They made sure the proposed projects would be relevant and meet the needs of women and youth in Surrey.

Key projects: these projects were identified by the SVWG and reviewed by the Reference Group. SVWG members are currently working to implement these priority projects.

  • Surrey Mobile Assault Response Team (SMART) Van - a mobile crisis service centre for sex workers. The van reaches women at the street level where they work, reducing barriers to access vital aid, resources and options.
  • A Night-time Drop In for Women that provides a range of services and supports.
  • A Night-time Drop In for Youth: A welcoming space for youth that is open at night-time providing a range of services and supports.
  • Anti-stigma initiatives including sensitivity training for people who come into contact with sex workers in the course of their working day. In 2016, SVWG organized anti-stigma workshops for front-line service workers, facilitated by Living in Community.
  • Improving access to information including improving and coordinating on-line resources and improving computer access for street-engaged women and youth. In 2016, the City of Surrey donated recycled cell phones and laptops to organizations working with vulnerable women and girls through Digital Inclusion initiatives as part of the City's Smart Surrey Strategy. A new City of Surrey Community Services Web Portal is being designed to help improve access to services, including those for vulnerable women and girls.

"In Their Own Words" - Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Research Project, 2014-2015

When the SVWG first convened, it found very little available research on vulnerable women and girls in Surrey. The Working Group initiated a research project, funded by the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, to develop a better understanding of the service and housing needs of vulnerable women and girls in Surrey.The final report for the research project resulted in a wealth of input and ideas. All together, 50 women and female youth and 12 service providers in Surrey participated in a focus group or interview from November 2014 to February 2015. The women and youth who participated in the study were either currently living on the street, had recently exited a street engaged life, or have stabilized and are moving on in their lives. The service providers were front-line staff who work with this population.

The Final Report, "In Their Own Words"  provides an assessment of services and needs for vulnerable women and youth in Surrey. This research report is actively informing future activities and priorities of the Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group.


Council Reports on Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group

Council Reports

Date
Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group - Update June 15, 2015


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