Critical services at Velma's House get financial boost

·3 min read

Winnipeg's only 24/7 safe space for women and gender-diverse people announced this week it is getting a big financial boost, and it’s one that some say will save lives.

“People who turn to Velma's House face barriers most of us can't fathom,” Ka Ni Kanichihk executive director Dodie Jordaan said at a news conference on Thursday at the Velma’s House building on Bannatyne Avenue, in Winnipeg’s West Alexander neighbourhood.

Velma’s House announced Thursday they will be receiving a donation of $600,000 from the TD Bank Group’s TD Ready Commitment program that will help the organization to continue the work they are doing offering a safe space and support services for women and gender-diverse people in Winnipeg.

Velma’s House is run by the Ka Ni Kanichihk Indigenous social services organization. It provides Indigenous-led, culturally appropriate and trauma-informed services and basic needs assistance for things like finding permanent housing, employment counselling, skills training, and navigating the health-care system.

Jordaan said she believes it cannot be understated how important Velma’s House is to the people who utilize their services and that is why she said the donation from TD Bank Group is so significant.

“What we are doing at Velma’s House is so critical that it is literally keeping people alive,” she said. “We hear about people needing a safe space, and they need it because they are often leaving an unsafe space and coming to Velma’s house, so at its most basic it is keeping people alive.”

She said they also hope to use the money to begin to offer more long-term support and programming to help people who are struggling because she said many of the people they work with are often dealing with stigma and the biggest barriers in society.

“Everybody wants to be a part of the community, everyone wants to contribute to the economy, but when we’re talking about a community that is often the highest targeted, it can be very, very challenging, when there are so many barriers in the way of achieving that,” Jordaan said.

Velma’s House is also hoping in the future to be able to offer more Indigenous-led health-care services because Jordaan said many Indigenous women and gender-diverse people do not currently feel comfortable accessing health-care services for a variety of reasons.

“With health care, there is a fear, there is stigma, so people will just stay unwell,” she said. “So we’d like to have more of those services here for when they are ready, and at their own pace,” Jordaan said.

Jordaan said the “significant” donation will help with both the short- and long-term goals of Velma’s House.

“This helps with stability because funding is always a need and a necessity,” she said. “It is significant having long-term funding to support staff, supply the resources and sustain our goals and our strategic plan.”

Velma's House first opened in April of 2021 at a different location they said they quickly outgrew and the organization received $7 million in funding from the federal government in the fall of 2022 that helped them to move to the larger building at the corner of Bannatyne Avenue and Kate Street.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun