The Greater Victoria Women’s Shelter Society (GVWSS) was incorporated in May 1986. The first priority of the GVWSS has always been the provision of housing for women, and their children, who are leaving abusive relationships.
Margaret Laurence House opened in 1995 and continues to provide six rental units, counselling and support to women, and their children, who are leaving abusive relationships. For more information about our current programs, check out Margaret Laurence House.
How we got here
In 1988, the Greater Victoria Women’s Shelter Society (GVWSS) initiated the Women’s Supportive Housing Program (WSHP) in partnership with the Capital Mental Health Association. This program was administered by two community nurses and offered access to affordable housing and ongoing support to women who have been, or are at risk of being, hospitalized during periods of acute depression or other crises. In 1994 the program was expanded after funding for the program was obtained from the Capital Health Board (later the Vancouver Island Health Authority). The program ended in March 2004 after VIHA discontinued funding.
In 1994 GVWSS was responsible for a project through which Sandy Merriman House was constructed as an emergency shelter for women living on the street. Subsequently, GVWSS managed the shelter and drop-in centre at SMH during its initial phase of operation until 1998. Also in 1994
CMHC approved funding for land and construction of Margaret Laurence House, which opened in September 1995. The balance of funding was raised by the GVWSS from Vancouver Foundation, Victoria Foundation, McLean Foundation, Woodward’s Foundation, Ministry of Women’s Equality, and the wider Victoria community.
In 2002 Women’s Transitional Outreach Pilot project, which operated from November 2002 to October 2003, explored the possibility of expanding MLH services to include an outreach program to work with women who cannot be housed at MLH.
Key Events in the Founding of MLH
1986: The Greater Victoria Women’s Shelter Society was founded to address the lack of safe and affordable housing for women leaving abusive relationships.
1987: Permission granted by the estate of Margaret Laurence to name the building Margaret Laurence House.
1988: The Women’s Supportive Housing Program (WSHP) was initiated in partnership with the Capital Mental Health Association. The funding for the program was discontinued in 2004.
1994: Sandy Merriman House, an emergency shelter for women living on the street, was constructed. GVWSS managed the shelter and drop-in centre until 1998.
CMHC approved funding for land & construction of Margaret Laurence House. The GVWSS raised additional funding from Vancouver Foundation, Victoria Foundation, McLean Foundation, Woodward’s Foundation, Ministry of Women’s Equality, and the wider Victoria community.
1995 – Present: Margaret Laurence House provides 6 rental units to women and their children who are leaving abusive relationships.
Construction of MLH began in March and was completed in August 1995. Residents started to move in on September 1st.
2002: Women’s Transitional Outreach Pilot project operated for one year and continues through Margaret Laurence House today.