By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Safe Haven Women’s Shelter Society received a $3,500 boost that will allow it to improve their facility’s intake office. The Society was awarded the grant after responding to a fall call for applications to the Community Priorities Fund (CPF) and the Henry S. Varley Fund for Rural Life. The two projects are disbursing a combined $336,050 to local projects and initiatives.
Michelle Higginson, executive director at Safe Haven, said the grant was on her radar and the process was not difficult. “Our initial awareness of the grant dates back several years when we actively pursued and successfully secured various grants. The application process was straightforward and conducted online, streamlining the procedure for accessibility.”
The Society provides emergency shelter, community outreach, child and youth outreach, child support, and public education. It offers resources for dealing with overdose, abuse, violence and children at home. It also gives caring community members an opportunity to help out through fundraising, donations, and two programs: Adopt-A-Family and Little Box of Hope.
The shelter depends on donors, grants and fundraising to operate at a level that provides meaningful help to those who need it. It’s not the first time Safe Haven has received a CF grant. In the fall of 2021, the society was a recipient of the Henry S. Varley Fund for Rural Life, securing a grant of $30,000. “The grant specifically supported our life skills program, covering wages for instructors and essential materials,” Higginson said. “The funds enabled us to conduct a diverse range of classes, including cooking, nutrition, hygiene, budgeting, taxes, time management, and resume building. Over time, the program has expanded to incorporate sewing, cooking, and money management classes. We’ve established partnerships with Taber Adult Learning for computer skills education and collaborated with Body Masters Gym and the Aquafun Centre with help from the Titans to incorporate physical activities into our program.”
Safe Haven regularly applies for other grants to propel them along. “An illustrative instance would be our recent success in securing a grant specifically designated for the purchase of running shoes. This initiative aims to eliminate barriers to physical activity, particularly benefiting women in our shelter,” Higginson explained.
The Society’s primary funding source is a core grant from the Alberta government, but it’s one that falls short of being adequate. Higginson said, “Unfortunately, the grant has remained stagnant for the past decade and does not fully cover our operational costs, resulting in a persistent budget deficit.”
The $3,500 Foundation grant is designated for a worthwhile improvement at the shelter. “(It’s) exceptionally thrilling as it provides the opportunity to renovate our crisis intervention workers office,” she said. “This space plays a crucial role as the intake office for women seeking refuge from abuse or homelessness, and it’s imperative that it adopts a trauma-informed approach. The grant will enable us to optimize the office, ensuring it becomes the best possible version to minimize stress for those seeking assistance.”
That said, Safe Haven carries an ongoing wish list into the coming year. “In terms of tangible needs, we consistently require various hygiene products, adult slippers, and diapers of all sizes,” Higginson said. “On a broader scale, our significant wish is for increased funding to support our dedicated staff, ensuring we can maintain the high level of service we are committed to providing.”
The grants are a part of the wider Community Foundation (CF) of Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta. Through the CPF, the foundation is dispersing $229,900 to projects from 26 organizations across southwestern Alberta. The Foundation says the funding is made possible by private, unrestricted donations from long-time supporters. The Lethbridge Auto Dealers Association (LADA) provided an additional $14,650 to 17 of the projects. LADA has allocated over $206,000 across the region since they began working with the Community Foundation in 2014,
Safe Haven’s website instructs those who need help: “First contact is usually made by phone by calling Safe Haven’s 24-Hour Crisis Line and speaking with a Crisis Intervention Worker. They will let you know if there is space for you and your children if you’ll be bringing any with you. They will also arrange transportation to the shelter if you don’t have your own way.” Crisis Line: (403) 223-0483