If you’re a woman facing the stress of domestic abuse in Chatham-Kent, your life is full of uncertainty – uncertainty about your safety, that of your children, where you’re going to live if you leave, and how you will support yourself.
One thing of which you don’t have to be uncertain is that there is an organization that stands ready to help, said Darlene Smith, newly re-elected president of the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre (CKWC).
“We don’t turn people away,” Smith said during Tuesday’s annual meeting of the CKWC. “For us, the need of our clients comes before everything.”
Smith said the organization receives funding for only 15 beds in the community but demand regularly exceeds that number.
“We have what we need to meet the needs of the community,” she said. “Funding is an ongoing issue, so we need to fundraise on a constant basis.”
Executive Director Hal Bushey said during the last year the centre exceeded funded beds on 137 days.
“This translates into 396 people we would have had to turn away had we not had available our additional bed capacity. It means for 39% per cent of the year we were over capacity, or 2.5 days of every week. This costs us over $60,000, money we fundraise from a generous and kind community.”
Bushey said the centre is unique among agencies of its type.
“Our mandate is that we will find a way to help,” he said. “It’s not always that way at every agency.”
On a budget of $1.5 million, (of which more than 80% is provincial funding) the agency ended the year with a $514 surplus that will be invested for future needs.
“We run things on a very tight basis,” he said.
Even though the centre doesn’t necessarily have direct programs for everyone who calls, no one is turned away.
“Where we can’t provide the necessary help or support we use our connections within the non-profit sector to make sure the client is taken care of,” Bushey said.
The centre is a founding partner of the Chatham Kent Non-Profit Network and is a United Way funded agency.
In addition to the residential occupancy program, the centre’s outreach program offers transitional housing, family court and witness support and school-based presentations.
One area that has increased is in counseling services for men, which has grown from four to 16 in the past three years.
“We receive no funding for that so it’s covered through our fundraising efforts,” Bushey said.
Joining Smith on the executive are Carol Emery, who will serve as vice-president; Shelley MacDonald, who is treasurer; and Terri Simmons, who is secretary. Board members include Christie Dawson, David Taylor, Libby Passmore, Gary Conn, Tammy McFadden, Jim Blake and Renee Tulloch.