Renovations create safer and more useable living space at emergency shelter
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.”
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.