After nearly a decade of planning, funding and construction, Waypoints is almost ready to open its new Unity House.
Waypoints was one of 15 organizations to receive part of the $6.15 million in federal funding provided to the province over two years, receiving $1 million.
Michele Taylor, Executive Director of Waypoints said the biggest difference between the new building compared to the previous one is the overall experience of their clients.
“Everybody who’s seen it has just been really impressed by the thought that went into the spaces and the overall feel of the building, so we think it’s going to work really well for us for decades.”
The new facility has 45 individual bedrooms, several gathering spaces, a children’s playroom and a larger dining area, among many other new rooms.
For women arriving with children, bedrooms can be adjoined in “bedroom pods”, which are similar to hotel rooms with adjoining bedroom doors with a shared bathroom.
She added that the new facility has the region’s first sexual assault healing centre, which is separate from the shelter operations and open to everyone, including men and boys.
That’s compared to the old Unity House which had nine bedrooms with bunk beds to provide shelter for 36 people, one small living room and sexual assault services in the basement.
She explained that while the old building was a great resource for around 30 years, during a crisis situation, often without personal belongings, it isn’t the best to be put in a room with people you don’t know.
“When you’re fleeing a bad situation, having that privacy and feeling of safety is so, so important.”
Taylor said that while there is no time limit for a stay, it’s typically a 21-days depending on circumstances.
During that time clients receive personal items and once settled a safety plan and “next step” plans are created for when they leave the emergency shelter.
“They need to know that they’re not being judged if they want to come back. Typically, the statistics show, that women will leave a dangerous relationship seven times before they finally go for good.”
While there are many reasons someone might go back to a dangerous situation, Taylor said it’s important to make sure everyone feels welcome, accepted and respected.
Even though the new Unity House went over it’s $10.4 million budget to $10.8, it was still opened mortgage free, which Taylor said is unusual for a women’s shelter.
If you’d like to donate to the shelter, it’s always in need of things like nightgowns, pajamas, robes, slippers and diapers.
The old location will become the CARE Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, which is planned to be opened by the end of summer.