Ishtar Society will continue to serve Aldergrove and Langley City

Ishtar and Libra transition houses will remain open, staff will not be laid off, says new chair of society's board of directors

  • Dec. 2, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Ishtar Transition Housing Society will continue to provide service to women and children fleeing domestic violence through its safe houses in both Aldergrove and Langley City.

The news comes after former management and ITHS board members announced last week that changes to Ishtar’s service delivery meant that it would no longer operate Langley’s two transition houses.

A release sent to the media last week also stated that layoff notices had been issued for Ishtar’s 33 full-time, part-time and casual employees.

The decision to restructure — which has since been overturned — was made during a meeting held on Monday, Nov. 24.  Three board members were absent from that meeting, including newly-appointed board chair John Rogers.

Following an emergency meeting, held on Sunday (Nov. 30), the ITHS board of directors accepted the resignations of seven former board members, including its former president, and appointed two new members.

The new board of directors also accepted a blanket resignation from the Valley Group, which had been hired to run the society, as well as from the two acting executive directors contracted by the Valley Group to manage its operations.

In addition, the board informed the BCGEU that no layoffs would be forthcoming.

“It’s Christmas time and we have funding,” said Rogers, adding there is no reason for anyone to lose their jobs.

There is currently no executive director in place at Ishtar. Instead, operations have been taken over by four members of the board, said Rogers, who has been a director with ITHS since September.

“We’re currently just trying to sort through everything,” said Rogers.

He said the current board has the support of the employees’ union as well as B.C. Housing, which provides $32 million in funding annually for transition houses and related services across B.C., including $1 million in Langley.

“The board is acting side by side with every single stakeholder.”

The society’s restructuring came after former executive director, Pat Romanin, sent out a press release last week announcing the changes to Ishtar’s services and, in a later interview, explained that the decision was made because the demand for shelter beds had decreased to the point where the beds were instead being filled by women with drug addiction and mental health issues, creating a dangerous situation for residents and staff.

In fact, domestic violence is not on the decline in B.C. — quite the opposite — according to  a joint statement released by Ishtar and the B.C. Society of Transition Houses on Monday.

The BCSTH release states that there have been 12 deaths in 2014 of women connected to violent relationships, and the figure is double the number of deaths related to domestic violence in B.C. in 2013.

“More needs to be done to address and prevent what is happening in British Columbia families that is leading to the death of our women and children,” the statement reads.

“The Transition Houses operated by Ishtar are part of the continuum of safety and support for women and children in Langley and Aldergrove; these houses are operating at over 90 per cent occupancy.”

On any given day across Canada, said Rogers, as many as 5,000 women and children who are escaping domestic violence seek shelter in a transition house.

“The opinions shared by the previous management don’t speak to the facts.”

Asked why someone whose remarks don’t represent the facts provided by the B.C. Society of Transition Houses would be placed in charge of Ishtar, Rogers replied:  “Obviously, the board that’s in charge now wasn’t a part of that hiring process,” said Rogers. “The ones that were are no longer with us. You can draw your own conclusions from that.”

At the same time, said Rogers, when people work together for a period of time they tend to trust the opinions people offer and that they did the research.

As new board members coming in, Rogers and some others didn’t have that relationship with management, he said.

“We believe when you quote information, you should be able to back it up with facts.”

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