Since December, there has been a safe place for women and children to go on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in Whitehorse.
The program, run out of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, is called A Safe Place.
But funding runs out at the end of this month, and the women’s centre, the Second Opinion Society and the Yukon Status of Women Council are seeking donations to keep it going.
The target audience for the program are women who do not have secure housing and struggle with mental health, said Larisse McDonald, program co-ordinator with the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre.
It’s low-barrier, which means women may show up drunk or high so long as they are not a danger to themselves or others, she said.
Two facilitators, trained as counsellors, cook a hot meal for the women and children, and are available to give support individually or in groups.
Evening activities are guided by the women who show up and there are no expectations for participation.
“If they need a place to crash for a nap for a couple hours, that’s fine too,” said Charlotte Hrenchuck with the Yukon Status of Women Council.
The women also have laundry and shower facilities available to them.
The project came out of research that Hrenchuck is doing on homeless women and mental health in the Yukon.
An after-hours safe space for women was identified as a gap in existing services.
It’s important to keep the program going so it can be properly evaluated, she said.
“We really need to have it going for at least a year to see if this is really the ticket. Is this what homeless women with mental health issues need, or is there something that would work better?”
It takes time to build trust with the women who are most vulnerable, she said.
But already some women are coming to depend on the service.
“The facilitators have been telling women that the program may not continue beyond this month, and they’re really nervous about that,” said Hrenchuck. “Every week they ask, ‘Can we come back next week? Can we come back tomorrow?’ There is no other place for them to go.”
The program needs about $6,000 to keep going through August, while co-ordinators work on securing longer-term funding.
Visit www.gofundme.com/bps2yo to donate to A Safe Place.
Donations of money, food and personal hygiene items can also be brought to the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre at 503 Hanson St.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at firstname.lastname@example.org