YWCA closing Meredith Place in May

·5 min read

After decades of service to the community, the building that houses YWCA Brandon’s Meredith Place will permanently close its doors in May.

It was a difficult decision to shutter the current Meredith Place building, said YWCA executive director Heather Symbalisty. It marks a major change to Brandon YWCA operations in 2022.

“It just had so many major issues that we cannot ignore that we need to be able to provide services to individuals that are going to be safe and secure. We cannot provide that within this building structure moving forward,” Symbalisty said. “That is why we had to make those tough decisions.”

The YWCA developed a collaborative and strategic plan in 2021. One of the major changes the organization is pursuing is the restructuring of the services it provides, including closing the physical location of the service at 148 11th St.

The current building housing Meredith Place will officially close its doors May 1. The future of the current building, which is owned by the YWCA, remains undecided.

“We had to make the heart-wrenching decision to have to close it,” Symbalisty said. “I have cried many tears over the last few days — our hearts are in this and it has definitely been challenging, but we will move forward and face those challenges and get through with the support of the Westman community.”

The Meredith Place building is more than 100 years old and has undergone several renovations, she said, but still has some structural and funding concerns.

After a professional assessment of the facility and the identification of damages to the structure, it was found it would not be possible to renovate.

“We’ve been in the community for 115 years, overseeing Meredith Place and the Westman Women’s Shelter. In those years, we have gone through lots of changes and we are going to be continuing to adapt in order to support the needs of the Westman community,” Symbalisty said.

Like most other agencies in Westman and across Canada, the YWCA is experiencing a high volume of workload combined with low staffing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She appreciates the continued understanding and respect provided by the community toward the YWCA Brandon during a difficult time. The YWCA staff and board remain committed to supporting the community in whatever way possible.

Symbalisty added the pandemic has created gaps that need filling and the YWCA is working to meet these needs.

“We need to make sure that we provide safe and secure emergency housing for individuals in need, and so due to that and due to the outcome of the professional assessment of the building, we had to make this difficult decision.”

The YWCA is exploring several potential plans to ensure they are able to provide a continuation of services. These next steps are still being finalized. More information will be provided to the community and affected agencies as it becomes available.

The future of services and supports could include the consolidation of offerings into one space or establishing multiple spaces in the community, Symbalisty said. She added future plans are up in the air currently as these are new decisions and YWCA staff and board members have not been able to sit down as a group to create a thoughtful plan on how to move forward.

Other future possibilities could include renting additional space, establishing satellite offices or building a new Meredith Place.

“First and foremost, my commitment as executive director of the YWCA Brandon is to find housing for the residents who reside within our residence at this time. I have made that commitment to all of the individuals that are living here that we are going to work with them alongside them and alongside the agencies in the Westman community to find them housing so they can move forward into a safe and healthy space once they leave Meredith Place,” Symbalisty said.

The YWCA is looking at a variety of grant funding streams currently that will help guide the next steps.

The non-profit recently created a new vision and mission statement during the development of the collaborative strategic plan.

The YWCA remains dedicated to providing safety for women and other individuals marginalized by gender and experiencing intimate partner domestic and family violence. The new vision statement centres on providing shelter and helping individuals rebuild their lives and communities through services and programs that facilitate healthier opportunities and connections.

As they work through the restructuring process, Symbalisty said this new mission and vision statements are going to be at the forefront of how they move forward as an organization and ensure the organization limits the impacts of the shuttering of Meredith Place.

“We have to look at the funding opportunities that are out there to us to be able to align with how we feel that we are going to move forward and apply for those and then everything will be a matter of how we can get funding to move forward,” Symbalisty said.

The YWCA will work with Westman community agencies to help through challenging times and appreciate patience as they move through this time of transformation.

“We are long-term and we have no plans of going anywhere, but this 100-year-old building, she is showing signs that she is too tired for us to carry forward,” Symbalisty said. “We have to sometimes make these tough calls.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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