Funding shortfall forced YWCA to close safe space
By Angelica Ingram
Published Dec. 15, 2016
In November 2015, the Peterborough Haliburton chapter of the YWCA had to close the doors of their Haliburton Emergency Rural SafeSpace for the first time since it was opened.
The closure lasted for five months and YWCA staff are hopeful it never happens again. Executive director for the local YWCA Lynn Zimmer said the closure came as a result of a funding shortfall.
“It was the first time it had happened, partly because when we opened it we always estimated it would be used about 50 per cent of the time,” said Zimmer, adding that estimation was based on patterns of use for Haliburton County.
“For the first several years, magically it turned out that way. Then last year we actually had a much more intense usage ... being always full through to the end of October, which exhausted all the funds we had available for staffing, because of course that was more than 50 per cent of the year.”
The clients that used the SafeSpace up to October continued to receive support, said Zimmer. In order to continue operations, the YWCA had to use approximately $95,000 from their reserves, which was raised outside the county.
“We just couldn’t do anymore,” she said.
The SafeSpace reopened in March of this year and has been monitored carefully, she said.
“We’ve realized we actually have to be prepared for intense usage,” she said.
The executive director won’t point to the factors that led to more usage of the space in 2015, as client information is sensitive and confidential, however looking ahead the organization is intensely fundraising to prevent a similar situation from happening.
“In order to continue this service, we actually need to secure $120,000 over the next year to sustain it for the next two years,” she said. “We’ve raised about $88,000 of that and we’re looking to find the balance.”
The YWCA has had a presence in Haliburton County for 30 years, with the SafeSpace in operation since 2006.
Described as a supported living situation, the SafeSpace is available for women fleeing domestic violence.
Earlier this month, a letter was mailed out by the local YWCA, stating that in 2015 the organization provided services to 149 women in Haliburton County.
During the months when the space was closed, those needing help had a tough decision to make, said Zimmer. The organization referred women to shelters in Peterborough or Kawartha Lakes, or anywhere else of their choice.
“We worked with women to figure out where is the best safe place that we can help you get to,” she said. “We did the best we could with each person.”
The executive director said that services are available year round through the use of counsellors, who will travel long distances to meet with women.
“We actually had 671 counselling sessions with women in Haliburton last year,” she said. “One time, a counsellor actually spent 18 consecutive hours travelling with a client through a terrible snowstorm ... the longest distance that one of our counsellors had to drive to meet with a client was 382 kilometres.”
The YWCA has had local events, such as a recent Walk a Mile in her Shoes at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, to help raise funds for the shelter.
Fundraising letters have been sent out and the organization is looking to make requests for financial support from local municipalities in the coming months.
The YWCA currently receives no local government support, said Zimmer.
For more information, including ways to donate, visit www.ywcapeterborough.org.