Ren­o­va­tions cre­ate safer and more use­able liv­ing space at emer­gency shel­ter

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBENBERG— mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

The ren­o­va­tions to an emer­gency shel­ter in Swift Cur­rent have cre­ated a safer and more com­fort­able liv­ing space for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in south­west Saskatchewan.

The of­fi­cial open­ing of the ren­o­vated safe shel­ter was cel­e­brated dur­ing an event on Oct. 26. In­vited guests were able to tour the fa­cil­ity and there was a for­mal pro­gram with speeches by dig­ni­taries and a rib­bon cut­ting cer­e­mony.

Swift Cur­rent MLA Everett Hind­ley spoke on be­half of So­cial Ser­vices Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the Saskatchewan Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (SHC) Paul Merriman.

“Our gov­ern­ment is proud to sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tions like this,” Hind­ley said. “We've since 2007 made sev­eral in­vest­ments here in Swift Cur­rent.”

He ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion to­wards those ded­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als who are work­ing at the shel­ter or sup­port­ing the work of the or­ga­ni­za­tion to pro­vide a safe haven for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“It's an amaz­ing build­ing and it's an amaz­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, be­cause when you think about it, ide­ally we wouldn't have a place like this,” he said. “We shouldn't have to have a safe shel­ter, but thank­fully be­cause of some hard­work­ing and ded­i­cated and car­ing in­di­vid­u­als we do have a place like this that for a brief pe­riod of time, folks when they're in times of need, women and chil­dren, have a place where they can be safe and taken care of.”

Deputy Mayor Chris Martens brought greetings on be­half of the City of Swift Cur­rent. He noted that the safe shel­ter is a vi­tal part of the com­mu­nity.

“It's heart­break­ing to know that it is nec­es­sary, but at the same to­ken it's very com­fort­ing to know that there is help avail­able if it is needed,” he said. “Our com­mu­nity is lucky to have an or­ga­ni­za­tion such as South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices.”

Kristina John­son spoke on be­half of Canada Mort­gage and Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (CMHC). She is a CMHC spe­cial­ist on af­ford­able hous­ing for the prairie re­gion.

“We're here to­day be­cause we share the goal of en­sur­ing that peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties across the prov­ince have ac­cess to safe, af­ford­able and sta­ble hous­ing,” she said. “Safe and se­cure hous­ing is the foun­da­tion to re­build­ing a bet­ter life.”

She noted that the ren­o­va­tions at the shel­ter was the re­sult of col­lab­o­ra­tion, part­ner­ships and co­op­er­a­tion.

“When all three lev­els of gov­ern­ment and the non-profit sec­tor work to­gether, Cana­di­ans ben­e­fit,” she said. “In­no­va­tive part­ner­ships like we've seen to­day, serve as an ex­am­ple of how co­op­er­a­tion can make mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ences in the lives of Cana­di­ans.”

The fi­nal speaker was Ted Wallin, the pres­i­dent of the South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices board of di­rec­tors. He ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion to­wards staff mem­bers for con­tin­u­ing to fo­cus on the needs of clients while the ren­o­va­tions took place.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment, through CMHC and the Saskatchewan gov­ern­ment, through SHC, jointly con­trib­uted $236,000 to­wards the ren­o­va­tions un­der the CanadaSaskatchewan In­vest­ment in Af­ford­able Hous­ing Agree­ment (So­cial In­fra­struc­ture Fund).

The ren­o­va­tions in­clude a larger kitchen, a wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble bed­room and bath­room, im­proved se­cu­rity and fire sprin­kler sys­tems, and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient heat­ing and light­ing. Ac­cord­ing to South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Heather Len­nox the or­ga­ni­za­tion was able to con­tinue with reg­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties at the shel­ter while the ren­o­va­tions took place.

“Our con­trac­tors were amaz­ing,” she said af­ter the of­fi­cial open­ing. “They worked with us to work on sides so that we could do that. We set up a tem­po­rary kitchen for a while in our new ac­ces­si­ble bed­room. Con­trac­tors tried to make that as short a pe­riod of time.”

South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices opened the South­west Safe Shel­ter in 1989. The fa­cil­ity has five bed­rooms and pro­vides emer­gency hous­ing for up to 14 women and chil­dren. The shel­ter has pro­vided sup­port for 60 women and chil­dren for the first six months of the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year (April 1 to Sept. 30).

The plan­ning for these ren­o­va­tions orig­i­nally started a few years ago when South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices iden­ti­fied a need to in­crease the safety and se­cu­rity sys­tem at the shel­ter.

South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices ap­proached SHC to dis­cuss op­tions to make im­prove­ments at the shel­ter, and they came out to do an as­sess­ment of the build­ing and the shel­ter's needs.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for us to make sure that our peo­ple that are stay­ing and try­ing to re­group and reestab­lish their lives, feel se­cure and safe” she said. “It’s our pri­mary thing to help in­di­vid­u­als that are stay­ing here, and it’s im­por­tant that we keep those in­di­vid­u­als se­cure while they are here, and our staff se­cure.”

The en­larged kitchen is the most vis­i­ble and prac­ti­cal im­prove­ment for shel­ter res­i­dents. It used to be a gal­ley kitchen where peo­ple could only pass each other, but now there is space for the din­ing room ta­ble.

“That would be the big­gest dif­fer­ence for some­body stay­ing here,” she said. “Just the abil­ity to get in the kitchen and cook and be part of a com­mu­nity while they're here, be­cause it is com­mu­nal liv­ing and have the space to do that.”

The other im­por­tant up­grades are the im­prove­ments to in­crease wheel­chair ac­ces­si­bil­ity at the shel­ter.

“We didn’t have ac­ces­si­bil­ity be­fore,” she said. “So we now have a ramp, we now have a bed­room and a bath­room that some­body that does have ac­ces­si­bil­ity con­cerns can ac­cess. So it was some­thing that we couldn’t even han­dle be­fore. We would look for dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions.”

Photos by Matthew Liebenberg

Swift Cur­rent Deputy Mayor Chris Martens (at right) presents a plaque in recog­ni­tion of the of­fi­cial open­ing of the ren­o­vated safe shel­ter to Shawn Mullin, the vice-pres­i­dent of South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices, Oct. 26.

A bed­room in the South­west Safe Shel­ter.

South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices Board Pres­i­dent Ted Wallin speaks dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing of the ren­o­vated safe shel­ter, Oct. 26. Next to him is the event em­cee and Board Vi­cePres­i­dent Shawn Mullin.

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