In 1984, a woman named Mavis Hippolyte lived and worked in a storefront on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. At night, she would barricade herself inside for safety. One evening, Mavis fell ill. She had no phone to call the police and was too weak to leave. Despite friends’ requests to the police for help, the police did not break into the storefront until it was too late. Mavis had already died.
Around that time, a number of women living and working in the area realized too many women like Mavis didn’t have a safe place to go during the day or a safe place to sleep at night. Together, these women formed a task force to tackle both problems by creating a women’s centre that would give women a safe place to go, and a housing initiative that would give women a safe place to live.
The latter initiative eventually became the Mavis McMullen Housing Society, began in 1986 and incorporated in 1987. We were named in honour of Mavis Hippolyte and after our first president, Helen McMullen, a sociologist who was researching women living in impoverished communities.
The circumstances of Mavis's death formed the philosophy of our Society: to provide safe, affordable housing with a sense of community through mutual support. Today, despite facing many challenges, MMHS fulfills its mission to provide safe and affordable housing for low-income women every day.
Our second building, Haley Place, opened in 1995 just off Commercial Drive, with an increased focus on providing housing to single mothers. For many, it acts as second-stage housing: it is outside the Downtown Eastside, but close enough so tenants can access the resources they need. At Haley Place, there is a smaller percentage of elder women, a larger percentage of single mothers, as well as several multi-generational matriarchal families.vOur second building, Haley Place, opened in 1995 just off Commercial Drive, with an increased focus on providing housing to single mothers. For many, it acts as second-stage housing: it is outside the Downtown Eastside, but close enough so tenants can access the resources they need. At Haley Place, there is a smaller percentage of elder women, a larger percentage of single mothers, as well as several multi-generational matriarchal families.
Mavis McMullen Place has 34 units for women and their families ranging in size from bachelor suites to 3 bedroom units. The building is secure and quiet except for the symphony of chickadees that live in the protected inner courtyard. It is located across from Oppenheimer Park, in the heart of the Downtown Eastside.
Future plans are aimed at supporting projects and initiatives that will create sustainable and meaningful improvements in the living environment and lives of residents in our buildings. Some examples of projects we are planning include improving the outdoor and children’s playground area at both buildings, providing residents with life skills training and learning opportunities such as babysitting courses, food safety training, fitness/yoga classes, as well as access to cultural activities.
The design concept behind this logo is that the lotus flower represents resilience, as lotus flowers can bloom out of muddy waters. This reflects the resilience of the women and their families that inhabit Mavis McMullen, as many have been through trauma in their lives. The house is blooming out of the lotus flower to signal that housing is giving an opportunity for residents to grow and rebuild their lives. Several design options were presented to the residents of MMHS, and through a voting poll, this design was chosen by the majority of residents.