In September of 2018, Janet-Marie Fizer, left, chair of the board of the Family Support Centre, and Kristine Vannebo-Suwala, the centre’s executive director, stand in front of the demolished building which once housed a women’s shelter. The organization is still seeking government funding to build a new shelter on the site. Until then, the shelter is operating in a temporary location.
NNSL file photo

The Family Support Centre is aiming to begin construction next year on a new women’s shelter in Hay River, even though it is still working to obtain government funding for the project.

“We do have a project plan to break ground next spring 2021,” said executive director Kristine Vannebo-Suwala, following the centre’s annual general meeting on July 9.

Vannebo-Suwala explained that the government funding, which would account for about 75 per cent of the $3.7-million project, would come from the National Co-Investment Application Process – a partnership between the federal and territorial governments.

That would still leave the Family Support Centre with over $750,000 it has to fundraise or find from other sources.

The AGM was told that the organization has so far raised $202,111 for its building fund.

Janet-Marie Fizer, the chairperson of the board, told the AGM about the challenges of seeking government funding.

“I feel like we work and work and work on applications to get the funding in place, and I feel like there’s been mountains of paper and there’s mountains ahead of us,” she said.

Fizer thanked Vannebo-Suwala for her work on the project and her efforts to seek funding.

“We wouldn’t have this project if we didn’t have your leadership on the floor every day, doing whatever we need to do,” said Fizer. “I don’t think Kristine ever meant to be a general contractor, but I’m sure there’s a hardhat in her future.”

The chairperson said she has to keep reminding herself to look forward and not get discouraged, noting she has an image in her mind of a new shelter.

“It’s new and crisp on the outside, and it’s got a lawn, and it’s got some landscaping. And it’s warm and it’s safe, and it’s welcoming on the inside,” she said. “But what’s really important to me is that outside I see children playing in the yard. I see nice playground equipment that’s new and painted, and properly installed. And there’s moms watching, and it’s peaceful and it’s safe. And the mountains of paperwork are gone. That’s my picture down the road.”

Between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, there were 70 women and 38 children who were admitted into the temporary shelter currently run by the Family Support Centre.

Since 2017, that shelter is in a three-bedroom house provided rent-free by the Town of Hay River after the former five-bedroom shelter on Riverview Drive was closed and demolished.

The goal is to build a new nine-bed shelter on the lot on Riverview Drive.

Vannebo-Suwala said it is fair to say that the funding application process is in a very good place.

“At this time, we have received some (federal) seed funding to start some geotechnical and environmental stuff on the property,” she said. “So it’s probably a stage of pre-building right now.”

It is hoped that work will begin in August.

As a non-profit group, the Family Support Centre has to have all the funds prior to starting to build the project, said Vannebo-Suwala. “So we would never start without having the funds secured.”

The Family Support Centre is an independent non-governmental organization funded by the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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