The gate behind you closes. … Now what?
This is the plight women who are released from the Clarenville Correctional Facility face following completion of their sentences.
Nobody knows that better than Cynthia, who by her own accounts was luckier than most.
She spent two years in the facility on a pair of separate one-year sentences.
When she was released a few months ago, she came back to her hometown of St. John’s, where she has family to help her, but was also grateful for the support offered by a number of local organizations such as the Just Us Women’s Centre at Stella’s Circle.
"The women in the system, those girls leave Clarenville and have nowhere to go, no supports, no food, money or shelter,’’ Cynthia said.
“They don’t even know where their next meal is going to come from," she said during the announcement of a pilot project Thursday at Just Us Women’s Centre in St. John’s.
Stella’s Circle and the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union Charitable Foundation (NLCUCFC) announced a pilot project, an innovative way to help these women get back on their feet through the Fresh Start With Accounts That Count initiative.
Lisa Browne, CEO of Stella’s Circle, and Allison Chaytor-Loveys, CEO of the NLCU and chairperson of the NLCUCFC, were among a host of dignitaries and participants who gathered for the announcement, both of them calling the project a defining moment for the futures of women like Cynthia.
“Our values at the Credit Union align with the values of Stella’s Circle. When Lisa approached us, we were happy to jump on board,’’ Chaytor-Loveys said.
“We looked at what we could do, took the idea to our employees, and they ran with it. It took some months of collaboration, as we had to make sure we got the program right,’’ she added.
What this initiative does for the women is first and foremost reduce many of the barriers they face when they are released back into the community.
Several of the things it does includes helping them get a picture ID card, a chequing account and a place to house their money, and eliminates security issues for these women so they can get established and transition back into society faster.
As an example, obtaining an ID costs $25, something many of the women don’t have. In addition, the application has to go off the Island to be processed and takes at least six days to get it back … or more. Try to get anything nowadays without an ID, and this is a precarious situation, just one of many they face.
“We have pledged to help 20 women each year and support them wherever they choose to settle in the province,’’ Chaytor-Loveys said.
To get these women help is welcome news for Cynthia, who like those who are released from Clarenville and other facilities, needs assistance.
She said some of the issues include not being able to get transportation to see their probation officer or get to their doctor’s appointment … or something as important as seeing family members.
“The bottom line is, all of these women need to be kept safe so they don’t continue in a crime cycle,” Cynthia said.
It would have been nice to get a bus pass, an ID. After you are in for a while, perhaps your old clothes don’t fit or your things have been lost. You are left with nothing. A program like this will help women get new clothes, a meal, a winter coat and even a new bra. That is important for women," she added.
She said places like Stella Circle, Just Us Women’s Centre and the Naomi Centre are integral in helping women by giving them the support they require.
“I was lucky. I got released to Emanuel House where I got guidance and support. For other women, it’s terrifying, horrifying for the girls. They don’t know what to do.”
Who the partners are
The following are brief outlines of the three parties who stepped forward on Thursday to announce the formation of a new pilot program being offered to women who are released from the Clarenville Correctional Facility on remand and are involved with the Just Us Women’s Centre at Stella’s Circle.
Stella’s Circle is a leading non-profit community organization in St. John’s that helps to transform lives by offering various housing, counselling and employment programs to people who face many barriers to fully participating in their community.
These barriers can include mental health issues, addictions, homelessness, poverty, criminal justice involvement, low literacy, and unemployment.
The Just Us Women’s Centre at Stella’s Circle works with women involved with the criminal justice system in the community and at the N.L. Correctional Centre for Women in Clarenville.
More information is available on its website: StellasCircle.ca.
Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union
The Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union is a full-service financial institution that manages over half a billion dollars in assets for over 20,000 retail and commercial members through 12 branches, located across the province.
The NLCU is dedicated to providing the most effective services and wise financial guidance to empower its members to make the best decisions to ensure their own personal financial success.
Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union Charitable Foundation
The NLCU Charitable Foundation Corp. was established as a registered charity in 2002 by the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union (NLCU).
Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $1.1 million for charities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
The foundation’s vision is to be a visible leader in support of registered charities that work to improve social programs and services in the areas of youth, education, health, arts, culture, and the environment.
The NLCUCFC is 100 per cent volunteer led and run — the NLCU employees are its driving force — raising funds on behalf of the foundation for distribution to charities.