PORT HAWKESBURY: More than anything, it’s sustainability that the money will be used for.
That was the message offered by Marina Martens, the executive director of Leeside Transition House and Strait Area Women’s Place, just after the announcement was made that the women’s centre is receiving a substantial increase in provincial funding.
The annual funding for the centre will increase from $70,000 to $205,716.
“The funding means that we’re stable for future years,” Martens said. “Some people might not know, but we were operating from year-to-year, and we were pretty much hitting the wall. Without this funding, I’m not sure we’d be standing here next year.”
The funding announcement was made Wednesday, June 26, at the women’s centre office at 609 Church Street. In attendance were a number of dignitaries including Stephanie MacInnis-Langley, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, who served as emcee.
With her was Kelly Regan, Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. It was Regan who officially made the announcement.
“The Leeside Society and their partners worked diligently to make Strait Area Women’s Place part of the fabric of the community,” Regan said. “This investment is recognition of the important role Leeside Society has in strengthening programs and services to support women’s safety and economic security.”
She noted the centre offers a great deal to the local community.
“We’ve added just over $135,000 to bring the annual funding to $205,716,” she said. “Why the $16, I don’t know, but this means the funding for Strait Area Women’s Centre now matches that of other women’s centres across the province.”
The issue of helping shelter women from domestic violence in the Strait dates back to the 1980s, when Leeside was first formed. Martens fleshed out that, in those early days, violence at home was a taboo subject. Finding the money to combat such violence was no small feat.
“Domestic violence was just beginning to be talked about in the public forum, and although there was some provincial and federal funding in place to provide services to women and children, it was really left up to the community,” she said.
“The original volunteers became Leeside Society in 1988, and they knew that women and children were suffering in this community and something had to be done. They didn’t say, ‘someone should do something.’ They said, ‘we must do something.’”
In the 26 years since, Martens said that same spirit remained in place. However, funding was always a challenge.
“Today, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude,” she said. “Gratitude to the founders of Leeside Society, gratitude to the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association for the vital role they played in realizing Strait Area Women’s Place.”
Before the first government grant came through in 2013, the cost of operating Strait Area Women’s Place was shared between Leeside and the Antigonish group. The centre was established in 2011 as a partnership between the two to provide more prevention-focused services including a wellness clinic, free summary legal advice, referral supports for therapeutic counselling, and a variety of other programs.
Now, the women’s centre is full-service and supports women and children from Inverness and Richmond Counties and parts of Guysborough County.
Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said having the provincial funding in place is a game changer for the women’s centre. She added that the local women staffing the facility are a game changer in their own right.
“The women in this room are a family,” she said. “They support each other, they listen to each other, they help, and they combat social isolation while empowering women.”