Eva's House has helped 12 families rebuild their lives in past 12 months
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
Domestic abuse comes in many shapes and sizes; it is sometimes physical, but it can also be verbal or financial. In the Archdiocese of Vancouver, the call to assist abused women and children has been answered by Domestic Abuse Services.
DAS, a registered non-profit organization founded in 1995, has set up Eva's House, a Catholic safe house in the Lower Mainland offering a safe haven to women and their children fleeing domestic violence.
"Domestic abuse is what I call a silent killer. People still turn a blind eye to it, not wanting to get involved or stating it isn't their business. We cannot and must not ignore it," said Janet Kilby, the new DAS president elected in February.
Michele Smillie, coordinator of the Respect Life Office of the archdiocese and a past president of DAS, explained the challenge of bringing Eva's House from concept to reality.
"We had an incredible amount of help from the Catholic Women's League, and after fundraising for many years, we decided to buy a home and renovate it, thanks to Project Advance."
The first year of operation was a struggle, but in the past year, 12 families have passed through Eva's House successfully.
Kilby clarified the house is not the first place abused women and children go to. Instead, a woman enters an emergency shelter for help through the immediate crisis. She may then move into Eva's House, where she can remain for up to three months, then, hopefully, to permanent housing.
In addition to Project Advance, the kindness of individual parishioners has been invaluable, with donations of furniture, kitchenware, and clothes. Also, DAS kept the turbulent economic times of 2008 in mind; the house does not have a mortgage attached.
Smillie justified the existence of a Catholic safe house, saying the women are fleeing a broken relationship. Some need help with budgeting, decision-making, or living on their own or with children.
Domestic abuse "hits the very heart of the family. Jesus called us to serve the poor, lame, and weak. God doesn't intend anyone to experience abuse or violence."
Eva's House does need volunteers and donations. Basic necessities are always welcome; this can include gift certificates for food. Smillie encourages anyone willing to donate anything other than food certificates to call first.
Any woman experiencing domestic abuse or wanting to know more can use the DAS help line: 604-640-7549 or 1-888-833-7733.