Abbotsford’s Warm Zone drop-in centre for marginalized women must be out of its current location by Sept. 30 but is having difficulties finding a new place as it faces ongoing funding concerns.
Co-ordinator Michele Giordano said one of the issues is that the agency has been unable to secure long-term sustainable funding, but most landlords require the signing of a three- to five-year lease.
“We can’t do that if we don’t know if funding is going to be granted year after year,” she said.
The other factor is trying to find a location that is zoned for the work the agency does and that is close to other services, such as the Salvation Army and Abbotsford Community Services that Warm Zone clients access.
The drop-in centre is currently located on McCallum Road across from Jubilee Park and is open to “street entrenched” women. It provides a place where they can escape the dangers of the streets, get a meal, take a shower, and do laundry.
They can also attend support groups, get help accessing substance abuse treatment, receive condoms and clean needles, and talk to a counsellor.
Giordano said a three-year lease to rent the building was signed in 2009, when the Warm Zone received three-year pilot project funding of $93,000 annually from the Status of Women Canada.
That funding ran out last March, and the provincial government stepped in to provide $172,000 in gaming funds to keep the facility running for another year.
The building’s owner allowed the Warm Zone to remain in the location during that time, but has now asked them to leave by the end of September.
Giordano said staff are looking for a place that offers a one-year lease.
“I’m starting to panic … I don’t know what we’ll do if we can’t find a location,” she said.
The Warm Zone is operated by the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley. Executive director Dorothy Henneveld said the Warm Zone has an annual budget of about $275,000 and the society is waiting to hear back on some grant requests – such as through Fraser Health – while it looks to secure more long-term funding.
She said community support through donations has been strong, including a successful fundraiser held recently by Mt. Lehman Winery and Twigz Creations.
“I think we’re in far better shape than were last year, when we were contemplating closing our doors,” Henneveld said.
She said the organization is facing some current challenges, but she remains hopeful about the future.
“We’re deeply committed to the Warm Zone and we will find a place.”
Anyone who can help with a location or funding is asked to call the Women’s Resource Society at 604-820-8455 or Michele Giordano at 604-746-3301.