the vivian transitional housing program for women
The ‘Viv’ provides supported housing for at-risk, chronically homeless women. It is the first minimal barrier housing program in Vancouver specifically designed for women living with concurrent mental illness, addiction and other challenges.
The facility was developed in response to the unique needs of women and is women-only, including both residents and staff. It offers a minimal barrier, high tolerance environment and follows a harm-reduction/health promotion philosophy.
The Vivian screens women in, not out of the program based on the complexities of their needs, histories and behaviours. The program is flexible, non-judgmental and responsive to the unique challenges faced by homeless women.
This project focuses on meeting the needs of individual women who are at significant risk and who, based on their housing history, are least likely to succeed in housing, mental health or addiction programs and services. Residents represent the most marginalized people in the community.
The Vivian welcomes pets, which is rare among service providers.
the women at the vivian share their stories
In April 2011, The Vancouver Courier published a story that referenced the Vivian, saying it “…symbolizes unintended exploitation.” When the women living at the ‘Viv’ found out about this, they met and decided to share what it’s actually like living at the Vivian. Two of the women wrote letters to the editor. One was edited and published. We scanned the actual letter and it can be read here. And the letter the Courier chose not to publish can be read here.
Women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are often the unseen homeless, and in many instance the unheard. Thank you Laura Anne and Shannon for sharing your stories.
Like what’s happening at the Viv? Donate to this program right now!
Vivian Grace Ash (1933-1999), the inspiration for the name of the Viv
Vivian was born in 1933; her mother was a sex worker. Little is known about her first 2 years of life, except that she was born with syphilis and was treated for this. At age 2 she was placed in foster care. In most of her foster home placements, she suffered physical and sexual abuse. When she reported this abuse to her social worker, she was told that she was “a dirty little girl, just trying to get attention”. In fact, her social worker was an alcoholic who regularly physically and verbally abused her. Read more