Women and children attempting to build a new life after escaping domestic violence will benefit tremendously from Julietta’s Place, opening in Red Deer this fall.
“Just over a year ago, Ken Wessel from River City Developments came to us, and he proposed a second stage housing facility,” explains Charlie Turnbull, program manager with the Central Alberta Women’s Outreach.
“We met with Ken and talked about what the need was, it being for second stage housing for women fleeing domestic violence.”
Second stage housing refers to places for families to stay for longer times than emergency shelters may be able to accommodate them. Currently, the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter in Red Deer can host a family for a maximum of 24 days.
After that, it’s either time to find a new home on their own, stay with family and friends or return to the previous situation — hoping for better circumstances in often unchanging, volatile situations.
In 2006, a report showed there was a need for about 20 to 30 second stage units in Red Deer, said Turnbull. Stays of up to 18 months would be the norm and families would have access to counseling and help in finding suitable accommodations down the road.
“A lot of people really don’t understand the dynamics that surround these situations,” explains Esterina Manyluk, president of the Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society board.
Sadly, many women are forced to return to the abuser.
“One of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest reason, is that often these women are often trapped economically. And think of what it’s been like in Alberta in trying to find an apartment, or a place to live. It’s been phenomenally expensive – there just hasn’t been much available.
“So this is a crucial step for people who are trying to change their lives and move in a different direction,” said Manyluk. “They already have lots of things against them including the stress of changing their children’s locations. And it’s all that much more overwhelming when there isn’t a place to go.
“That’s why a tremendous number of these women go back into these relationships that are so destructive. The shelter does great work, but it’s the first step in relation to a longer journey. “Again, I think there’s a general assumption that these women go into the shelter and then they miraculously move in a different direction with their lives and everything is fine. Of course, that’s not the case.
“Anyone trying to make a major shift – it doesn’t happen in three weeks,” she said. “You need that bit of serenity, that ability to focus and you need to not be worry about the overbearing stress of a destructive relationship.”
Julietta’s Place, which will include 10 units, will ultimately cost about $1.4 million.
Rental costs will be about 20 to 25% below market costs. As to other Alberta cities that already have such facilities in place, Medicine Hat opened one about four years ago.
“Edmonton has 27 units, Calgary has 67 units and Medicine Hat has 10,” said Turnbull. Fort McMurray has a few units available as well.
The facility, located on 55th St., has been named in honour of Julietta Sorenson who once lived on the property with her husband Gordon. Local historian Michael Dawe was the most recent owner of the property, and he had purchased it from the Sorenson estate.
“It’s a really wonderful legacy,” said Manyluk. “And our understanding is that she did this kind of work quite quietly. She was just one of these people who provided for others in the community and took care of them.”
At Julietta’s Place, women will be matched up with an outreach worker who will help them make a number of plans and goals. There will also be support groups they’ll be able to get involved with. “We want to have a lot of input with them to help move them onto the next stage, which would include their own place,” said Turnbull.
Meanwhile, the team is excited to see the project reach completion and open its doors to those so desperately in need of the service.
“I know it’s going to have some great successes,” said Manyluk. “We’re going to look at situations in 10 or 15 years in the future and say ‘Look what they’ve gone on to do, and look how their children are thriving’.”
They’re also grateful to a supportive community that’s helped bring Julietta’s Place to fruition.
“The City of Red Deer, Michael Dawe, Ken Wessel – they really understand the need. It’s great to live in a community where those types of people and organizations exist.”
Meanwhile, there are ways for the community to get involved. Donations of cash for ongoing operations of the facility or furnishings for the units are welcome.
“We’d really love to see people in the community assist us.”
For more information, call the Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society at 403-347-2480 or visit www.womensoutreach.ca.