A Safe Place is in danger

Yukon's only after-hours support centre for women and children is asking Yukoners again to help them keep the doors open.

Yukon’s only after-hours support centre for women and children is asking Yukoners again to help them keep the doors open.

A Safe Place, run out of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, provides a hot meal and a place to be on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

The program is targeted at women who have mental health issues, don’t have stable housing or have a hard time keeping themselves and their children well fed.

It has operated since December of last year, run by two facilitators who are trained as counsellors.

The program was initially funded as a pilot project. The idea came from a research project that identified a need for a women-only space after-hours and on the weekends.

That funding ran out in July. At that point, program co-ordinators asked Yukoners to chip in to keep it going.

“There was a really great response to that,” said Hillary Aitken with the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre.

The fundraising drive raised $6,000, enough to keep the program going till now, she said.

A funding application has been submitted to Yukon’s Community Development Fund, but no response is expected till the end of November, said Aiken.

They need $3,500 more to get them through till then, she said.

The bare-bones cost of the program is $600 a weekend. That covers wages for two counsellors for three evening plus the cost of a little bit of food, said Aiken.

An average night might see eight to 10 women and a handful of kids show up, said Charlotte Hrenchuk.

The program has been very successful so far, she said.

“Some people say things like, if they weren’t here, they’d be at home drinking. Some people say they really appreciate bringing their kids. Especially single parents that are at their wits’ end. It’s kind of a safety valve for them to get out of the house, bring their kids to a safe place where they know they can get some support.

“Because it’s a gendered environment, it’s women only, they really like that. They don’t have to worry about somebody hitting on them or somebody stalking them or somebody behaving in an inappropriate way or running into somebody that they’ve had trouble with in the past.”

Losing the program would be a blow to the women who have come to depend on it, she said.

“For the women coming here for safety, it means that they’re going to be unsafe. For the women coming here instead of drinking, it means they’re going to be drinking. For the women coming here for support with issues, they’re not going to have that support. And as we know, crises don’t just happen on the weekdays during office hours.”

For those who have a hard time feeding themselves and their children, it will mean losing three nights without a free, nutritious hot meal.

“For families, women and children, that’s a big deal,” said Hrenchuk.

Building trust with the women is important, and shutting down even for a short time would be a step backwards, said Aitken.

“That’s what we’re really trying to avoid, because we want to build trust and continuity for these women who might not have that in other areas of their lives. We want to be able to be there and to have a place for them to count on. If we have to shut down, then it’s just sending another message that there’s another hole in the net that you’re falling through.”

Contributions to the program can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/bps2yo.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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