Usage up at YWCA's SafeSpace
By Chad Ingram
Published Dec. 14, 2017
It’s been a busy year for the Haliburton Emergency Rural SafeSpace (HERS), with new clients seeking out its services.
HERS, operated by the Peterborough Haliburton YWCA, provides a safe haven for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. The facility was closed from November of 2015 through March 2016 due to usage outpacing financial resources and late last year, the YWCA launched a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $120,000 to help keep the space open for the next two years and also conduct a sustainability study on providing services in rural areas.
That sustainability study, which included a number of surveys and focus groups, was conducted through the summer and fall of this year.
While the YWCA is not yet prepared to release its findings publicly, the organization plans to make a presentation to Haliburton County council with the results early in the new year.
Haliburton County contributed $25,000 over two years to the fundraising campaign.
One thing that is clear is that demand for the services of the safe space continues to grow.
Jennifer Cureton, director of philanthropy and communications for YWCA Peterborough Haliburton, believes there are a few reasons for this.
“The first is that new women were seeking us out,” Cureton said, adding that it seems there is now heightened awareness of the service in the community. “Sometimes we can be too secretive, to the point of being too quiet.”
“We’re also starting to get more referrals from our community partners,” Cureton said.
As Cureton explained, a safe space differs from a shelter, in that it operates when required.
“A shelter operates 24/7 and is there waiting,” she said.
“A safe space operates 24/7 and is there if they need it. But if they don’t need it, it’s not there.”
A number of local politicians expressed dismay at the scope of domestic abuse in Haliburton County during the YWCA’s campaign for funds last year.
In 2016, the organization helped 124 individual women in Haliburton County, fielding more than 1,200 crisis calls and conducting some 670 outreach counsel sessions. Issues of poverty, isolation and a lack of transportation in rural areas can worsen conditions for women subject to domestic abuse.
As Cureton told councillors at the time, with nowhere else to go, some women stay with their abusers, exchanging sex and enduring abuse for food and shelter.
Since the five-month closure between late 2015 and early 2016, HERS has been able to remain open. Cureton said that was largely due to the fundraising campaign.
“We had tremendous support from the community,” she said. “I want to say thank you.”
The YWCA is continually fundraising to help support its activities.
“We continue to do community fundraising throughout the year,” Cureton said.
“We hope people will continue to give generously as the year draws to a close.”
The organization’s main source of funding is the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services and Cureton said the YWCA continues to seek a more sustainable, long-term funding model.
The ministry funds approximately 60 per cent of costs.
Cureton stressed there are no plans to remove service in the county.
“Not having a service in Haliburton is not on anyone’s agenda,” she said.