Photo by Kelly Constabaris.
At the Rainier Hotel, spirits are low. The city’s only addiction treatment centre for women recently lost its funding and has become a shell of the vibrant, staff- and program-filled community that it used to be. After the federal and provincial governments decided not to renew a four-year funding commitment that got the centre up and running, Vancouver Coastal Health followed suit.
Of the many battles that the women who live at the Rainier are facing, one of the more serious is losing access to nutrition and nutritional education. Being food secure gave the women a chance to focus on their recovery and health, a luxury many of them have never had before.
Nicole Wheelhouse works at the Rainier and calls the funding cuts “devastating.”
“We are no longer able to host our weekly and very valuable Nutrition Program that was educational and provided life skills. We also no longer have the rations to help our women with tea, broth or juice if they are sick. We can no longer provide the women with a daily yogurt if they are taking harsh medication,” she said.
The Portland Hotel Society, who runs the housing side of the centre, now provides one meal each day through the Food Peddler program. But the meal is restrictive in that it doesn’t take into account women who have dietary restrictions like diabetes, food allergies or have chosen to be vegetarian.
Andy C. considers herself lucky that she has a friend who helps her buy groceries, though sometimes it is not enough. A couple of weeks ago, just after the money had run dry, the staff organized a grocery-shopping trip to No Frills.
“It would be a great day if I were to have money to go to No Frills,” she said. “Right now I am sour because I will have the chore of going to social services in the rain and standing in line with my aching leg and slagging attitude.”
There is hope, though, as the Rainier has started to receive donations from Save-on Meats and staff are looking to start get funding for a Community Kitchen Program. It will be an uphill struggle, though, highlighting the importance of food security, especially for our most vulnerable sisters.
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