The Committee on Family Violence in Corner Brook is advocating for a new transition house.
Valerie Simms-Anderson, executive director of the Corner Brook Transition House, put the request before the provincial government for the first time Wednesday.
At the pre-budget consultation with Finance Minister Charlene Johnson, she described the current 16-bed emergency shelter for women and children who have experienced abuse as aging and run down.
The building is about 70 years old, of which the past 30 it has served as the women’s shelter. It is only wheelchair accessible on one floor — the living room, kitchen and playroom are all on the lower level.
There has been a number of issues with the building in recent years — primarily with respect to water and sewer. There have been multiple leaks and sewage back-up and staff fear for the health of those inside.
“All of these are costly issues and ones that cannot be repaired,” Simms-Anderson said. “The economical solution is to stop putting public money into repairs on an aging building and instead build a new one that would serve our population better.”
The facility was designed to accommodate four people in each of the four 10 by 12 feet bedrooms. It used to often be for a woman and her children, but due to changing family demographics it is typically now shared among single women or just one or two children.
Simms-Anderson said many of their clients also now have complex needs such as addictions or mental health issues. The lack of privacy is more of an issue in today’s society, she said.
“This arrangement is not good enough for the women that we serve,” she said. “Our clients are escaping abuse and are dealing with significant emotional and life change. They have a lot of decisions to make and may be having difficulty coping with this new life situation.”
Anderson said, at a minimum, a semi-private space is appropriate.
“One that is more inducive to healing and to personal wellness,” she said.
She also said the location is compromised. Many people know where it is, and sometimes abusers go there or watch from the outside.
“It jeopardizes the safety of staff and the women who are escaping abuse,” she said.
The pre-budget consultation brought out municipal representatives of Corner Brook and Deer Lake.
Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender spoke on a number of issues — primarily revolving around funding to the city for a number of projects or through certain initiatives.
Pender told Johnson that the capital funding agreement between the provinces and municipalities should be amended. Right now, higher populated municipalities such as Corner Brook enter funding partnerships with the province at a 70/30 split (the province paying the bigger portion). Lower populated towns get capital funding at a 90/10 partnership.
The mayor said that ratio should be reversed. His rationale is the larger municipalities are regional service centres, which share services with smaller towns and people throughout the region who use their facilities and services at no cost.
“We do have very limited sources of revenue here in the west coast, in particular the Corner Brook region,” he said. “One of the major issues we have is finding enough revenue to meet needs of both capital and operating expenses that we have as a regional centre.”
Coun. Jean Young of Deer Lake also raised the issue of municipal revenues and expenditures. She said one significant source of revenue the town is being short-changed on is Deer Lake Power. The town receives a $175,000 grant in lieu of taxes.
“If we charged at a mill rate that small business is charged, probably nobody in Deer Lake would have to pay property tax,” she said.
Young said a grant in lieu of taxes should have a minimum rate to ensure a municipality is receiving a fair pay out.
In all, 10 people presented to Johnson at the Corner Brook session.