PLANNING—Charlie Turnbull

Julietta’s Place a haven for families escaping violence

Shelter helping to meet pressing need in the community

  • Feb. 2, 2011 4:25 p.m.

Just a few months after opening in Red Deer, Julietta’s Place is providing a safe haven for women and children escaping domestic violence.

The establishment, described as second stage housing, is a 10-unit home for families to stay longer than emergency shelters may be able to accommodate them. Families can stay for up to 18 months in the facility, which is the first of its kind in Central Alberta.

The concept for Julietta’s Place stemmed from talks between Ken Wessel of River City Developments and the Central Alberta Women’s Outreach.

An official opening was held this past December for the facility, which is located near the downtown. It was named in honour of Julietta Sorenson, a long-time resident of Red Deer who passed away in 2004 at the age of 96.

She was well-known for her kind and compassionate nature. This meant that during the war years in particular, she opened her home to strangers who needed a meal and a place to stay. The facility is located on the site of where Julietta and her husband Gordon originally lived.

Families have to agree to take part in programs with Women’s Outreach to be eligible for a stay at Julietta’s Place, said Charlie Turnbull, program manager with Central Alberta Women’s Outreach.

“They have to keep in touch with an outreach worker here,” he said. “They also have to see a domestic violence counselor and they also have to participate in our women’s drop-in group. If they’re not willing to interact with our staff, then they aren’t a fit for us.”

So far, Julietta’s Place is proving a critical addition to the community, he said. Currently, the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter can only host a family for a maximum 21 days.

After that, it’s either find a new home on their own or with family and friends, or return to the previous situation, hoping for better circumstances.

“This gives them a chance to rebuild their lives for the long-term.”

Turnbull said the spectrum of programs available to the families at Julietta’s Place make a substantial difference in their lives as well. Topics run the gamut from breaking the circle of violence to learning how to build a positive relationship. Outreach workers help them with things like budgeting as well.

Turnbull predicted that by the end of January, Julietta’s Place would be full. It’s not surprising, as statistics consistently show Alberta has among the highest rates for domestic violence in Canada.

But Julietta’s Place offers a real sense of promise to families in crisis, who also don’t have to worry about leaving the safety of a shelter in a matter of weeks.

“So far, we’ve had no complaints. There have been a lot of good reports from the ladies,” said Turnbull. “They’re liking having their own place, a place they can call home. They feel secure.”

Meanwhile, there are ways for the community to get involved. Donations of cash for ongoing operations of the facility are welcome, as are donations of practical day-to-day items from personal hygiene products to laundry soap.

Turnbull also pointed out clearing up the mortgage would open up funding for more program and opportunities for those living in Julietta’s Place.

For more information, call the Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society at 403-347-2480 or visit www.womensoutreach.ca.

mweber@reddeerexpress.com

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