Minister on west coast for pre-budget hearings

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Cory Hurley
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Corner Brook needs new women’s shelter, Charlene Johnson told

The Committee on Family Violence in Corner Brook is advocating for a new transition house.

Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender (centre) gives his presenation at the pre-budget hearings in Corner Brook Wednesday as environment activist Llew Hounsell (left) and labour leader Wayne Lucas look on. — Photo by Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star

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 various abuse as aging and run down.

The building, about 70 years old, has served the past 30 years as the women’s shelter. It is wheelchair accessible on only one floor. The living room, kitchen and playroom are all on the lower level.

In recent years water and sewer issues have become evident. There have been multiple leaks and sewage backups, and the staff fears 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 x 12-foot bedrooms. They were meant to serve a woman and her children, but due to changing family demographics bedrooms are typically now shared among single women or just one or two children.

Simms-Anderson said many clients 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 changes. They have a lot of decisions to make, and may be having difficulty coping with this new life situation.”

The executive director said, at a minimum, a semi-private space is appropriate.

“One that is more inducive to healing and to personal wellness,” Simms-Anderson said.

She 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.

 

Municipal concerns

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 for the city for a number of projects or through certain initiatives.

Pender told Johnson the capital funding agreement between the province 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 proportion). 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 utilize 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 revenues 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 payout.

In all, 10 people made presentations to Johnson at the Corner Brook session.

 

 

Organizations: Corner Brook Transition House

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Deer Lake

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