Long-over­due work

Har­bour House get­ting much-needed re­pairs, ad­di­tion


Work will be start­ing on July 31 on more than $200,000 in re­pairs and ren­o­va­tions to the South Shore Tran­si­tion House As­so­ci­a­tion’s (SSTHA) Har­bour House in Bridgewater.

“We’re ac­tu­ally re­ally ex­cited,” said Jen­nifer Gagnon, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the fa­cil­ity, which serves both Queens and Lunen­burg coun­ties.

“We got a grant from Hous­ing Nova Sco­tia for some pretty sig­nif­i­cant money for re­pairs,” not­ing the house, which is 160 years old, has been slowly go­ing down­hill.

“We’re start­ing in the base­ment and go­ing to the roof.”

Foun­da­tion work will be done to sta­bi­lize the lean­ing build­ing, a new roof will be added to stop the leaks, three new wash­rooms on the res­i­den­tial floor will help rec­tify plumb­ing is­sues, and new floor­ing and paint will be done through­out. It’s the first real upgrade to the women’s and chil­dren’s shel­ter since it was opened 30 years ago.

“We can say good­bye to our 30-year-old wall­pa­per,” said Gagnon. “We have picked out a colour pal­let that gives a feel­ing of hope and heal­ing. We want peo­ple to feel wel­come.”

In ad­di­tion to the restora­tion work, a two-storey ad­di­tion is go­ing to be built. The main level will house meet­ing and pro­gram space and a play area, where the SSTHA will be able to meet with com­mu­nity part­ners, out­reach pro­grams can be de­liv­ered, ac­tiv­i­ties can take place and group meet­ings held. An en­trance sep­a­rate from the house will pro­tect the con­fi­den­tial­ity of in-house clients.

On the sec­ond level, two coun­selling of­fices and a stor­age space will be cre­ated, with ac­cess from an out­side en­trance.

“The coun­selling of­fices are re­ally im­por­tant,” said Gagnon, as it will en­sure one-on-one coun­selling is sup­ported.

As for stor­age space, “We don’t have a lot of space to store stuff,” said Gagnon, adding that once the project is fin­ished, she hopes to be able to de­velop a food pantry to give clients some sta­ples to stock their cup­boards when they leave.

Fur­ni­ture still needed

“One of prob­lems we have is get­ting some new fur­ni­ture,” said Gagnon. “Har­bour House doesn’t have a very huge bud­get and some of stuff is ex­cep­tion­ally old, orig­i­nal to when Har­bour House was opened 30 years ago. We’re hop­ing maybe a com­pany might spon­sor a room or a piece of fur­ni­ture.”

When asked what they needed, her an­swer was sim­ple.

“We need ev­ery­thing,” said Gagnon. “Mainly liv­ing room and kitchen fur­ni­ture. We have a lot of chil­dren so fur­ni­ture that’s easy to clean,” such as leather or vinyl couches, as op­posed to up­hol­stery.

“Some dressers would be good. Beds, we’re OK there. We need things we can use to make our house a home like pic­tures, lamps and shelves.”

Items will also be needed for the new ad­di­tion, such as desks, chairs, other of­fice fur­ni­ture, and a board­room ta­ble.

“We re­ally want the com­mu­nity to know how much we’re do­ing to meet the need, that we be­lieve in our work, are work­ing to pre­vent vi­o­lence in the com­mu­nity and we need help,” said Gagnon.

Safe shel­ter

The house has a to­tal of 17 beds, in­clud­ing cribs, a trans­gen­der safe room and a dis­abil­ity safe room. The de­mand for safe shel­ter “seems like it ebbs and flows,” said Gagnon.

“We might be full for seven or eight months, then it will drop down to six or seven peo­ple. The oc­cu­pancy rate is about 70 to 80 per cent on av­er­age.”

With a mis­sion state­ment to em­power women, of­fer safety, com­fort and hope, and sup­port and ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity, Har­bour House not only of­fers shel­ter and coun­selling to women as they tran­si­tion and ex­plore op­tions for their lives, they also of­fer an in­te­grated ar­ray of other ser­vices, such as out­reach pro­grams and sup­port groups. Har­bour House hosts evening in­for­ma­tion ses­sions in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions through­out Lunen­burg and Queens coun­ties dur­ing the year, fea­tur­ing top­ics such as goal-set­ting, healthy re­la­tion­ships, stress man­age­ment, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Har­bour House also has a Child and Youth team that goes into nine schools in Lunen­burg and Queens dur­ing the year, pre­sent­ing one­day and on-go­ing work­shops on top­ics such as healthy boundaries, re­spect­ing your­self, healthy re­la­tion­ships, anger man­age­ment, bul­ly­ing and peer pres­sure to stu­dents from Pri­mary through high school.

“Our ul­ti­mate goal would be to have no clients be­cause that would mean no vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren,” said Gagnon. “Vi­o­lence against women is a peo­ple is­sue. It’s ev­ery­body’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­vent vi­o­lence.”

Glenda Pen­nell signs her fin­ished paint­ing at the As­tor The­atre.

Maud Lewis themed art.

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