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.
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.”
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