Rebecca Wells, Executive Director at Wellspring Family Resource & Crisis Centre, is hopeful they will see funding soon to help them put needed money into the building. “We’re going to apply for some seed funding because there is money out there for women’s shelters to do upgrades, and obviously, our shelter needs it.”
In early December, following a water leak, they discovered that the roof didn’t have the insulation it should. “We want to renovate the shelter to make it more energy-efficient, increase accessibility and put more space in there for clients. We will probably convert our garage because we don’t even use it. It’s storage space we don’t need.”
Thankfully, they could get the insulation situation fixed ahead of Christmas, but the issue raised concerns about other issues within the building. “We have old windows. We will try to do some energy models because we are already doing that with the other project and maybe solar panels. It does make a big difference. For accessibility, we have a wheelchair ramp but don’t have a shower that someone could walk into. It’s just a regular bathtub and is not accessible.”
Another issue that a switcharoo of the current floorplan would rectify is pandemic specific. COVID restrictions made it so that they couldn’t put single women together in one unit, decreasing their capacity. Taking their upstairs office space and putting it where the garage currently sits would mean that clients would gain space on the upper floor. “We are hoping that we can move the office space downstairs so that the upstairs is strictly for clients. We hope to increase our capacity to at least six more bedrooms upstairs. We aren’t exactly sure about the spacing yet. We need an architect to come in and let us know,” said Wells. They would increase to a ten-bed shelter.
The seed money from CHMC, which they will apply for in January, would cover the cost of bringing in experts to draw up a plan. Once designs are in place, they would apply for the Indigenous Shelter and Transitional Housing Initiative in mid-April to put the plan into action. “We have to have our schematic designs done, and everything has to be perfect and sent off. We are hoping we can get it going. Obviously, we have some inefficiencies here in the building. I was wondering the other day why our power and heating bill were so high, but I guess if we don’t have much insulation left in this old building, then that makes sense.”
Wells said they hadn’t applied for the seed funding for any of their previous projects but felt that this was the perfect time to go after it. “CMHC has been really great with us, and we are hoping for some good news in the near future. I told our board that this funding doesn’t come around very often, and if we can create such an amazing different space with what we have, our building will be better for our clients. If we don’t apply, whoever joins the board ten years from now will be asking why we didn’t. My board approved and said let’s do it and see what we can get going,” said Wells.
She said that they also need more bathrooms on top of moving office spaces and creating more living quarters. “We have two half bathrooms upstairs and one full. We need more full bathrooms, especially with COVID. You’re not supposed to share the bathrooms when someone is isolating. There have been all these changes since COVID, and our shelter needs to evolve. Now that we’ve been through a pandemic, we know what to do in the future. If we got funding to help, and there are any future pandemics, we would be in a better place to take more clients in. There are a lot of things we have to change.”
In the end, the water and insulation issues ended up being blessings in disguise. “It created urgency on the needs of this building. It’s not something you think about because the building was doing fine, and no one even thought to look up above. Over the years, the insulation probably just kept going down and compacting. Most people probably don’t think to look in their attics and see how their insulation is doing. We had issues with heating and cooling in the building, so this is a great opportunity to fix those issues.”
Wells said that everything they are applying for in the new building project they have in the works could be integrated into the old building and its renovations. “Some of the things we learned through the process of planning our new building, we will be able to use some of those things here. We want them to look similar so that people know that’s Wellspring. It’s neat that we can do these around the same time. If everything aligns, it would be really neat to do that.”
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press