Northern women’s shelter expected to open in June

A 24-bed emergency shelter for women and children being built in the remote northern community of Black Lake First Nation is a “long-standing dream come true,” says the head of the Athabasca Health Authority.

Darryl Galusha says construction on the shelter began last month and is expected to be complete by the end of March. He hopes the shelter will be staffed and operational by June 2019.

When that happens, women and children in need from the communities around the Athabasca Basin will be able to get support close to home. At present, women who are facing dangerous situations or spousal abuse are put on planes with their children and flown to a shelter in La Ronge (600 kilometres away) or Prince Alberta (800 kilometres away).

“You’re taken away from everything that you know, you’re taken away from your family, your social structure, your support systems, so we want to be able to provide that,” Galusha said. 

“We want to keep people together and families where they’re comfortable, where their language is spoken, where they know people.”

Galusha says he’s not sure how many women a year were being sent south for supports or how much the Athabasca Health Authority was paying for them to travel.

He said he hopes the 24 beds that will be at the shelter will be more than the community needs.

The shelter, located across from the Black Lake Denesuline Health Centre, is expected to create six new jobs in the community when it opens.

Construction of the shelter is being funded by a $2.3-million investment from the federal government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Georgina Jolibois, the member of Parliament for northern Saskatchewan, says there’s a “huge need” for emergency shelters for communities across her riding and she would like funding made available for similar shelters to be built in communities such as Meadow Lake and La Ronge.

“It is difficult when family has to leave their communities to acquire the help because not everybody’s allowed to go with the mum and the children. And so it is a difficult time,” she said.

ahill@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/MsAndreaHill

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