The women of the Warm Zone cheered, hugged, cried and shook Abbotsford West MLA Michael de Jong’s hand with the announcement that the place for “street engaged” women had funding to stay open for at least another year.
“It saves lives, and changes lives, and in the process makes our community a better place,” he told reporters after the announcement.
The McCallum Road drop-in centre is a place where women battling addiction and mental illness, some homeless and some sex trade workers, can get such basic necessities as a meal, a shower, laundry and companionship. It operated for three years with federal funding, as a pilot project by Status of Women Canada, but that funding ran out in March.
De Jong, recently appointed finance minister, announced funding on the balcony at the Warm Zone on Tuesday evening, saying $172,000 in funds will be available from the province in about a week.
De Jong told the women they had made an impression with a public appeal to keep the Warm Zone alive. Their campaign included an event in nearby Jubilee Park at the end of August as a fundraiser and public awareness event.
“You are all ambassadors for what takes place here,” he said.
He said the board of the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley (WRSFV) has also been “very diligent about shaking the tree.”
De Jong noted that a local “hero” donated $10,000 to the Warm Zone, anonymously, which allowed it to stay open until the government arranged funding.
“He or she threw them a lifeline,” he said. “I hope they feel good about what they did.”
De Jong announced $208,000 funding in total for WRSFV, with the balance going toward other initiatives. It is a one-time grant, with no future guarantees.
“It’s a stunning day,” said WRSV executive director Dorothy Henneveld. “What’s really important is there is such strong support for the work we do.”
She said the $172,000 is two-thirds of the facility’s funding needs, and with funds already donated the Warm Zone has another year in operation secured.