Soft blankets, ready to lend a little warmth and support to women in crisis, are draped over sturdy chairs in three small, but inviting, rooms.
Newly renovated facilities for the Women’s Community House (WCH), which celebrated the official opening of its counselling and support centre on Jan. 22.
The improved space was made possible by a number of contributors including a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
“It’s awesome, just awesome. It allowed us to do all this,” said Kate Wiggins, executive director at WCH, gesturing to the new facilities, which include renovated crisis rooms and increased office space.
In total, WCH received funds from three different organizations in order to make the renovations possible.
While Trillium gave the lion’s share, just over $83,000, other contributors included the Walter J. Blackburn Foundation ($10,000) and the E.W. Bickle Foundation ($5,400).
Wiggins explained that prior to the opening of the new centre, it was the residential counsellors who would have to answer phones for crisis calls, as well as work with residents and manage walk-ins in need of support.
“So what we decided to do was change that and have the counselling and support and phones answered (in the new support centre) by counsellors so the residential counsellors could focus on the needs of the women who are in crisis and residing in shelter,” she said.
WCH has been providing support to women in distress since 1978. Through a variety of confidential programs and emergency facilities, we’ve assisted more than 24,000 women and children with privacy, shelter and counseling in a time of physical and emotional crisis.
According to the organization’s annual 2012/2013 statistics, 527 residents found shelter at WCH, while the helpline took more than 3,000 calls.
Wiggins went on to add the results of the transition have continued to speak for themselves.
“What we’ve noticed in the short-term, in terms of outcome, is we’re able to spend more time on the phone with women and we’re able to spend more time with women in counselling when they come here as they arrive at the door,” she said. “They may not go into shelter but they certainly need our support so it’s exciting. It’s made a big difference in a short period of time.”
Teresa Armstrong, London-Fanshawe MPP, was on hand to congratulate the organization on the renovations to their Wellington Road facility.
“I’m very much a supporter of the services these organizations provide to help women get out of domestic abuse situations,” she said. “The fight against violence with women is something I’m very passionate about and I’m relieved we can provide the right kind of services for people to get them out of situations that are unsafe. No one wants to see someone not have that hope their life can change.”
After touring the facilities Armstrong said it’s nice to see so much space devoted to meeting the needs of local women in crisis.
“They talked about how there’s potential of having three counselling areas so they’ve incorporated room for expansion,” she explained. “It’s really a great way to re-purpose the space, to help people requiring those interventions so they can have a safe place.”
Armstrong went on to add though she wished these types of services were no longer necessary, they are in fact a reality in today’s society and need to be given attention.
“It’s a great initiative that the Ontario Trillium Foundation recognizes these services are essential and there’s a support behind it and it is a success because of the people involved,” she said. “Helping these women in a healthy way and giving them a non-judgmental space, a supportive space, is extremely important. I really commend people for doing this kind of work and value the things they’re doing in the community to really help women.”