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Cranbrook Women’s Centre will close its doors in March

Community Connections Society of Southeast BC (formerly Cranbrook Women’s Resource Society) announces with deep regret the closure of the Cranbrook Women’s Resource Centre effective March 10, 2011. This decision has come after several years of financial struggle to keep the doors open. Provincial government funding to women’s centres around the province ended in 2004. Since that time many women’s centres have closed but the Cranbrook Women’s Centre has remained open, however, with fewer hours and fewer staff.

Executive Director, Gwen Noble says that “lack of consistent funding has been an issue since we lost government funding and we have been piecing funding together in an effort to continue to provide service to a very vulnerable and marginalized group of women and their families in our community. We have relied heavily on Gaming funds, on project and grant funding and on community donations which we have been very grateful for.

However, we have reached a point where we can no longer sustain the service. Grants have been more difficult to obtain and donations have decreased over the years as the economy has worsened. Sadly this has happened at a time when the need is increasing and we are seeing more and more women and families in crisis and in need of our service. Ironically we are closing the doors two days after the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.”

The Cranbrook Women’s Centre has a long and solid history of providing service to women. Thirty six years ago five women became a consciousness raising group wanting to provide a safe place for women who had no place to go. They received a grant and opened the first safe house in Cranbrook staffed by volunteers and also provided on call support for women in crisis. In 1982, the group was registered as a Society and in 1990 raised $10,000 to provide the first birthing bed at the Cranbrook Hospital. The Women’s Centre continued in 5 different locations until 1999 when the Society was able to buy their present home which has become a warm and welcoming environment.

The Women’s Centre has provided support to thousands of women over the last 36 years with services that include lay counselling, advocacy, creating safety plans with women leaving abusive relationships, provision of basic needs, support with accessing other services in the community, education, emergency transportation, use of computer, telephone, photocopier and fax, support with housing and employment, and the camaraderie of other women.

The Women’s Centre has also provided a voice for women and has kept women’s issues at the forefront always with the goal of improving the status of women. They have honoured women who have been abused and died violently by holding the December 6th Vigil every year. They also have collaborated with other community agencies to hold Take Back the Night Marches and facilitate the Clothesline Project during Prevention of Violence Against Women Week.

Vicky Dalton, Coordinator of the Cranbrook Women’s Centre is very worried about the gap that the closure of the Women’s Centre will create. “Although we know there are other services for women in the community, most focus on specific issues such as violence against women. We know there are many women who will fall through the cracks and we know that other agencies will experience an increase in service pressures”.

Community Connections Society will continue their efforts to find or create sustainable funding for the Women’s Centre. “It is our goal to re-open the centre but not until we can assure women in the community that we are here to stay” says Gwen. “We want to thank the community for their great support over the years. We could not have provided the services that we have without your generous donations, your on-going commitment and your belief in what we do.”

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