Women’s shelter reopens after unexpected closure

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Peace River Region Women’s Shelter is set to reopen on April 2 after a case of black mold caused a four-month unexpected closure.

The black mold was discovered in late November when window and siding replacement was being completed. To ensure the facility was safe for residents, the shelter was closed to complete the eradication of the mold.

“Our board took immediate action to ensure that our clients and staff were safe,” says Peace River Region Women’s Shelter Society board chair Carol VanSlyke.

“Our response was two pronged: we made certain the physical building was made safe for people to be inside and we needed to ensure that there were financial resources to pay for it.”

VanSlyke says all levels of government were immediately contacted, and their assistance along with local businesses and public donations, helped to expedite the repairs necessary to re-open the facility.

Recently, the Government of Alberta provided a one-time assistance of $400,000 to help cover remediation costs.

The shelter also received a donation of $20,000 and an offer of a two-year interest free $130,000 loan from Northern Sunrise County, $20,000 from County of Northern Lights, a total of $20,000 from the M.D. of Peace over two years, and a $20,000 donation from Peace River.

Other municipal assistance came from Grimshaw and Manning, each providing $2,500 to help in the remediation process and infrastructure repair.

“We did not want there to be any delay in getting the building available to house women and children needing a safe place to stay,” she says, noting that they commenced the work immediately.

“To do this our contractor needed to be paid so they could get materials, supplies, and pay their workers. We were grateful to the quick response of our towns and municipalities, they allowed the work to immediately go forward.”

She explains it was discovered that there was not a proper vapour barrier installed when windows were put in during the original build. Air circulation was also an issue that needed to be addressed to ensure the same issue did not resurface in the future.

“We attended to issues that contributed to the problem in the first place by installing new furnaces and fans to ensure air is properly moved throughout the building,” says VanSlyke.

“All work was done by local contractors who understood the emergent need to provide a safe place to women fleeing domestic violence. They ensured the work was done in a timely way without compromising excellent workmanship.”

The Peace River Women’s Shelter provides shelter to women and children fleeing abuse. During the closure, the shelter provided off-site support services and helped to find alternatives in and around the community for individuals that needed assistance.

The shelter is governed by a board that oversees the operations and is registered as an Alberta non-profit. The board has volunteers throughout the region.

“We are dependent on the community every year for donations,” explains VanSlyke. “The donations are used for operational costs such as food, transportation, client needs, maintenance, and many other things. Basically, donations are used anywhere we have a shortfall in funds.”

VanSlyke says remediation bills are not all received yet, but they are anticipating a total cost of between $450,000 and $500,000. She explains the board is anticipating additional costs to complete the projects and will be doing final accounting by the end of April.

The shelter always accepts financial donations, cheques can be mailed to Peace River Regional Women’s Shelter, Box 7738 Peace River, Alberta T8S 1T3. Please identify an address for a tax receipt to be sent.

“Keeping our most vulnerable community members safe is essential,” says VanSlyke.

“People who live in a violent home need to have a way out. The idea that anyone is trapped in an untenable situation without resources to leave is horrifying. They must have the option of a place to be safe and a place that will provide the needed resources to the family to make good and considered choices for themselves.”

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