Meghan visits Vancouver women’s shelter

The Duchess of Sussex has been seen for just the second time since the royal crisis began, at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre in Vancouver discussing "issues affecting women in the community".

The shelter posted a photograph on its Facebook page of Meghan at the centre of a group of eight women, with the caption "Look who we had tea with today!

"The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, visited us today to discuss issues affecting women in the community."

Look who we had tea with today! The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, visited us today to discuss issues affecting women in the community. 💜

Posted by Downtown Eastside Women's Centre on Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, founded in 1978, is a refuge for women and children in and around the neighbourhood, which is one of the most socially disadvantaged parts of the city.

Offering services to thousands of women each year, the centre, in the province of British Columbia, provides an emergency night shelter for women who are homeless or at risk of violence.

It hosts up to 150 women each night with beds for only 57, often taking in women who have been rejected by other shelters due to mental health or addiction issues.

The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre also offers meals and sanitary products, job training, HIV support and other community outreach programmes.

More than half of the women who use the centre are homeless or at risk of homelessness, with 72% of the centre members visiting at least four days a week.

Three-quarters (78%) of the centre visitors identify as Indigenous Canadians, who are significantly more affected by social issues than the rest of the population.

Harry and Meghan spent six weeks in British Columbia over the festive period, staying at an exclusive property on Vancouver Island.

Meghan travelled from Vancouver Island on Tuesday, boarding a seaplane for the short trip across to the Canadian mainland.

The duchess, a former actress, worked in Toronto during her time starring in the popular US drama Suits, and knows the country well, having lived there for seven years.

Meghan did not join the royal summit at Sandringham with the Queen and senior royals by phone on Monday, instead relying on her husband Harry to put forward their case for a new independent life.

A source told the PA news agency: "In the end, the Sussexes decided that it wasn't necessary for the duchess to join."

After the summit, the Queen issued a statement which sanctioned the couple's new "independent life" away from full-time royal duties and said they would begin a transition period living in the UK and Canada.

The duchess is reportedly the driving force behind the move.