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Boundary Women’s Coalition making presence known in Grand Forks

Group launches new website, speaks to council about services and sponsorship
From left, Boundary Women’s Coalition Board member Elly Macmaster, Executive Director Meghan Hatley and Board Chair Dani Collins hold up the coalition’s new logo. Submitted photo

A non-profit geared solely to women and their children in the Boundary region is making its presence better known in the community, starting with Grand Forks City Council.

Boundary Women’s Coalition gave a presentation on services they provide in city and Boundary region on July 17 at the start of the regular council meeting.

The purpose, according to executive director Meghan Hatley and Elly Macmaster, board member and treasurer, is for public awareness, talk about their new logo and website, as well as to ask for the city’s help in getting the word out on the coalition’s services and amenities.

As a non-profit, they need volunteers and donations of any kind. If people want to get more involved they can become a coalition member. It’s free, and they get voting rights at the AGM. The coalition came to see if council can help with sharing their new website link on the city website, and share support of program.

“We have a shared responsibility for a safe community,”said Hatley.

Macmaster started the presentation with an overview of the coalition. It’s a non-profit serving women and their children experiencing or at risk of violence. It’s also a place for women in the Boundary Region to find connection and provide resources. It has been serving all of the Boundary Region since 1986, Christina Lake, Bridesville and Carmi.

Overall, it provides safety, shelter, support, advocacy, resources and community connection.

“We operate a six-bedroom transition house in Grand Forks, the Women’s Resource Centre on Market Avenue, which has drop-in Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said. “We also provide outreach services and counselling across the boundary region.

To help connect with women across the Boundary, the coalition launched a new website, which Hatley said after years needed to be refreshed and updated to make it more user-friendly.

“Although our website provided program information, it was difficult to navigate,” she said. “We also wanted to better connect with volunteers and donors who wanted to support our initiative.”

Among the features, which includes faster links, is a clearly marked exit page button that takes someone to a different page not affiliated with the coalition in the event a user is in a dangerous situation.

It also clearly features the 24/7 crisis line and is tablet and mobile app-compatible.

Macmaster and Hatley also talked in detail about the amenities the coalition provides. Among them is a transition house that is a six-bath, six-bedroom house. Each woman gets her own bedroom and bathroom, which is not always the case at transition houses.

“We are lucky to have this, most have to share a room with another woman or a bathroom,” she said.

It is also staffed 24/7 and is a safe, secure site for residents. They can stay for as long as needed. While 30-day stays are normal,they are getting longer due to the housing crisis.

“ We are really fortunate to have this in Grand Forks,” said Hatley. “It’s often full, unfortunately. We do get quite a few calls.”

While there, staff give one-on-one support, including helping women with B.C. Housing applications and expand their search for a home if they wish to leave the community.

There is also second stage housing on Raven Avenue, with four one-bedroom apartments and two three-bedroom apartments. It is subsidized housing, with 30 per cent of a tenant’s income.

People can live on own, but agree to participate in programs, such as meet with support worker and attend groups.

There are also several outreach programs, which are being run in their Market Avenue location and in their new space as they have expanded into the storefront next door as of April 12.

Among the programs is Stopping the violence counselling. It’s for any woman 19-plus currently or in the past experienced violence or abuse. People can self-refer and receive up to 12 to 15 sessions for free.

Outreach services through Stopping the Violence range from giving rides to Trail for appointments, protection orders through Family Law Act, food and grocery runs, or finding someone or a service that can help them.

Councillor David Mark thanked the coalition for their service, but asked any plans for services for younger women, such as skills development and building independence?

Hatley said they can, but on a case-by-case basis, adding younger people have rented second stage and go to the transition house.

She added Boundary Family Services partners with the coalition, providing child and youth counseling for issues including sexual abuse/assault.

Councillor Christine Thompson said she is pleased and has a clearer idea of their services, but sad to see they are needed.

Macmaster explained they have to be confidential, but do need to get the word out.

RDKB Area D director Linda Kay Wiese said she is impressed and confident of the services. She explained coalitions like this have helped her as a young women, especially being employed in non-traditional ways. When she was older, she became part of Penticton Women’s Centre board and was chair for a few years. It allowed her to travel to Ottawa for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women conventions and learned a lot of personal development skills.

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About the Author: Karen McKinley

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