A BREIF HISTORY OF
The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce (TWC)
How Did We Begin? Our First 10 Years
The history of The Women's Centre (Grey & Bruce) Inc. began in 1981, when the Board of Directors of G&B House, a recovery home for male alcoholics, carried out a feasibility study which examined the need for a similar service for female alcoholics and for services for women in crisis. The report, The Women's Centre Feasibility Study for Grey and Bruce Counties, tabled in September of 1981, recommended that a centre for women in crisis be founded. It was estimated that the service would cost $65,000 to operate a 24-hour crisis centre with a staff of 4 and volunteers.
Over the fall and winter of 1981, a committed group of people began the work of incorporation, developing a program, fund raising, securing initial funding, and hiring two staff.
In February of 1982 The Women's Centre (Grey & Bruce) Inc. became incorporated. The “Women's Centre” was opened in a 4-bedroom apartment on 9th Avenue East the same month, despite problems with city zoning. The opening of services was only made possible because of the dedication of board members and volunteers. Furniture, household supplies, and the rent deposit all came from supporters of the centre. The G&B House lent The Women's Centre funds to tide the organization over until grant funds became available. Funding support came from Bruce County and from grants.
1982 was a busy year. With only 2 staff positions a group of volunteers was necessary to staff the Centre. Volunteer training, program development, fundraising and a search for a more suitable property required enormous amounts of time from the board and staff. 1982 ended with 56 women and 55 children finding crisis accommodation and support. The total operating budget was $40,000 with half of this raised as donations from the community.
1983 saw an expansion of both staff and volunteer positions. A total of 43 volunteers worked in the shelter, as fundraisers and on the board. Two additional staff positions were added to provide bookkeeping and outreach services. There were difficult discussions with the Grey/Owen Sound Family and Social Services to negotiate funding support. The apartment facility was clearly inadequate and the Grey County Board of Education offered to rent The Women's Centre a house for a dollar a year. This plan met with opposition from property owners and resulted in an O.M.B. hearing. The O.M.B. decision was in favour of The Women's Centre and renovations were begun. The budget grew to $70,000. The province began to fund Interval Houses and this was a hopeful development for The Women's Centre.
Began with a move into the newly renovated shelter on 5th Avenue. The new house was much more comfortable with a small yard for the children. There were many staffing changes and a further expansion of the budget, now up to $100,000. A total of 93 women and 104 children found shelter at The Women's Centre. Community donations of furniture, goods, services and funds were essential to the operating of the Centre. The development of policies and procedures was essential at this time.
The Women's Centre began to receive on-going deficit funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services. A new Ministry-funded 1-800 Crisis Telephone Service and support groups for abused women were developed. A major program development was the development of a Volunteer Transportation Network, which provided women with access to shelter services in both Owen Sound and in Kincardine. Volunteers also continued to provide overnight shelter staff coverage, but paid staff covered the day shifts. There was a greater focus on the provision of counselling, support and information services for abused women and their children, as more and more people in the community became aware of this issue. The Women's Centre developed its logo and became more involved in community committees addressing women's and children's issues. The budget was now $135,000 for a 10-bed shelter.
No Longer Grassroots
The shelter experienced a steadily growing occupancy rate and the need for additional staffing. There was a large turnover of both staff and board members as the organization changed from “grassroots” to a more complex structure. The Women's Centre began to look at the needs of women leaving the shelter for safe and affordable housing and began to develop a proposal for Second Stage Housing.
A Children's Program began at the shelter. The occupancy rate climbed to 100% and the house was crowded. A proposal was successfully submitted to St. Andrew's Church to rent a large mansion and we began preparations to move. The Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Community and Social Services approved a $750,000 funding proposal to develop a 10 apartment Second Stage Housing Project. The operating budget for The Women's Centre was now $270,000.
This was an extremely busy year! The Shelter moved to its new premises, which involved an enormous amount of staff and volunteer time. People packed, painted, moved, and carried on their “normal” jobs, all at the same time with a 105% occupancy rate. We began to experience difficulty providing shelter for all women needing it and we were forced to put 137 women and children on a waiting list for service. The new location was bigger and could accommodate more people, but there was a need for increased staffing. It was recognized that a permanent home and an expansion of beds for the shelter was a priority and funding proposals were developed from the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The Second Stage Housing Project was in full swing. A property on 9th Avenue was purchased and construction was begun.
The Women's Centre began to look at the provision of services for abused women who would not access the shelter and preliminary research on a Community Counselling Program began. The number of staff had grown to 21 with a volunteer group of 50.
In 1990 the Shelter Capital Project dominated the activities of board and staff. The existing facility was purchased and major renovations and new construction began with a total budget of $960,000. A down-sized shelter program was operated out of the housing location while construction took place. The shelter continued to operate with a waiting list and a renewed request for an expansion to 13 beds was made. A total of 202 women and 184 children stayed at the shelter in 1990. The Administration and Network Program moved to a permanent downtown location which allowed for a “front door” to the public and an expansion in community public education. The housing program expanded its program to include services for children. A funding proposal was developed for a Community Counselling and Education Program for Grey and Bruce counties. The network program developed and began a Native Outreach Program designed to provide staff training and liaison with the native communities at Cape Croker and Saugeen. The staff of The Women's Centre joined the London and District Service Worker's Union and a first contract was negotiated. Computerization of The Women's Centre continued, with the purchase of equipment and an extensive staff training program.
1991 and the beginning of 1992
The newly renovated and refurnished shelter reopened. The shelter could comfortably accommodate 15 beds with accompanying counselling, office and children's program space. The Women's Centre continued to request funding for an expansion to 13 beds. Again in 1991, 95 women and 109 children were placed on a waiting list. A computerized security system and fire protection system was now in place. The “new” shelter is a wonderful facility and a beautiful site for women and their children.
2000 - 2021
The operating budget of the Women's Centre grew to 1.4 million dollars with a staff of almost 30. A broad range of crisis, counselling, shelter, housing, information, transportation, community development and education services were provided. The focus became co-operation and co-ordination of community services.
Ready to celebrate our 40th anniversary,
There were and have been many historical moments to TWC. Too many to document, however, the need for The Women’s Centre exists today as it has for so many years. Each day we see that violence towards women is more serious and more widespread than anyone believed could be true. The painful truth and reality of this problem is now acknowledged openly. The awareness of our services is widespread and our goal is for some day these services not to need to exist as the problem of violence against women will have been resolved in our society.