Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Sign of Hope campaign aims for $2.42M
Catholic Social Services helps La Salle shelter provide second stage housing for survivors of domestic violence.
RAMON GONZALEZEDMONTON - Catholic Social Services is hoping to raise $2.42 million this year through its Sign of Hope campaign.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
CSS hopes to use some of those funds to support a second stage shelter for women with children fleeing domestic violence.
La Salle, as the shelter is known, is a nine-unit downtown apartment complex that has served as refuge for abused women for the past two decades.
Catholic Social Services took it over nine months ago and now must come up with funds to operate and expand it.
CSS launched the annual campaign during a press conference at the La Salle shelter Oct. 20. Bill Shields, a former St. Albert city councillor, school trustee and longtime CSS volunteer, will chair the fundraising appeal.
"I'm confident we will reach our goal," Shields said in an interview. "We have an amazing group of volunteers working towards the success of this campaign."
La Salle receives no government funding and relies on the financial support of the community for up to 90 per cent of its annual operating budget of $360,000, CSS spokesperson Marc Barylo told reporters.
It will receive at least $160,000 from the Sign of Hope campaign, which continues through to mid-December.
The Sisters of Charity of Montreal - the Grey Nuns - started the La Salle shelter in 1989. At the request of the La Salle Women's Housing Society, CSS assumed operation of the shelter last January.
FAMILIES IN NEED
Barylo said CSS decided to run La Salle because the shelter falls well into the parameters of the agency.
"We do exist to serve children and families in need," he said. "We have programs that meet many of the multidisciplinary needs of the women and the kids here and we can do it in a seamless fashion.
"We also have a reputation and capacity to do the fundraising and to access government grants for expansion and so we agreed we would take it on."
Women with children are referred to La Salle from emergency crisis shelters. They can stay at the shelter for up to a year.
"The average suite here will house one woman and three children," Barylo explained. "They will, if they have the funds, be charged $400 in order to stay here and receive all the services that are being offered here."
CSS is planning to add eight suites to the building, as there is a shortage of second stage shelters in Alberta.
In 2007, nearly 27,000 individuals from about 5,500 families in Alberta sought refuge in an emergency shelter, Barylo noted.
Many of these women need second stage housing but there is not enough space for them. There are only 124 second stage apartments in the province, but between 496 and 730 are needed.
La Salle offers private space for mothers and their children. Common space is also available for shared meals and house meetings.
Staff includes counsellors and social workers who offer one-on-one sessions and group support to the residents.
Learning about domestic violence, experiencing a safe environment and establishing healthy boundaries are all part of the experience at La Salle. When the time is right, women are also supported to engage in the community through employment and educational opportunities.
"We want to provide safe and affordable accommodation, but we don't want to imprison the women here," Barylo said.
"We want to provide services to them, counselling and social support, so that they are able to develop the skills and the inner strengths to be able to move out of the shelter with their children and get on with their lives."
Child care is available on site at La Salle with playtimes that focus on breaking cycles of anger, violence and abuse. Moms and children are also connected to community resources and supports.
DEAL WITH ABUSE
"We are trying to bring in more services and counselling staff to deal with domestic and child abuse," Barylo said. "We also have some of the staff to work with school systems so that these children can get the support they require."
When the women are ready to move out, La Salle helps them find suitable, safe and affordable accommodation in the community.
"We also maintain contact with them to ensure that they are getting along well," added Barylo. "If they have problems, they know we are available to give them the kind of support that they need."
In addition to La Salle, several other CSS programs rely heavily on Sign of Hope dollars, including Safe House/Safe Passages for street youth, Kairos House for people with HIV/AIDS and the Elderly Adult Resource Service for seniors experiencing abuse and neglect.
CSS serves more than 60,000 Albertans a year through more than 100 programs.
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