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Rezoning approved for a women's shelter in Bonnyville

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BONNYVILLE - The Lakeland region is a step closer to providing an additional haven for women fleeing domestic abuse with the rezoning of land for a women’s shelter now approved in Bonnyville. 

The Bonnyville Friendship Centre received approval for its request to the Town of Bonnyville to rezone 4801-66 St. and 4805-66 St. during council’s June 25 meeting, which is an all-important step in its bid to build a women’s shelter. 

The friendship centre’s shelter project intends to focus on housing women and children fleeing from domestic violence, and had their intended site rezoned from (UR) urban reserve district to (I) institutional district to accommodate the facility. 

A public hearing was held the same evening before the council supported the rezoning. 

Friendship centre representatives Janet Gobert, chief executive director, and Cynthia Gamache, director of Crisis Support, gave a presentation on the development. 

Gamache highlighted the immense need for a women’s shelter in the area with stats provided by the RCMP indicating the detachment was dispatched to 391 domestic violence calls in 2022 and 371 in 2023. 

“Each month approximately 15 local women and children fleeing abuse go back to their abuser because there are no beds available in Cold Lake, St Paul, Lac La Biche, Lloydminster, or Edmonton shelters and these are just the women and children that we're seeing at our agency.” 

Gamache explained the organization has learned a lot from the men’s shelter and has taken that knowledge into consideration in the planning of the women’s shelter.  

“The women's shelter will have 35 beds, including transportation to and from to get them to safety, daycare, RN (Registered Nurses) and LPN (Licensed Practical Nurses) on site 24/7 to alleviate emergency room visits, including programming of Mental Health crisis supports, employment strategies, Elder support for adults and youth, danger assessments advocacy, and court support.” 

To make sure women are getting the most out of the program, Gamache explains that they will be building a transitional home as well. 

“The transitional home has another 30 beds, a daycare, access to an RN and LPM onsite, and life skills programming, including budgeting, affordable housing, planning for the future, employment training supports and advocacy, parenting programs, Elder supports for adults and youth, and healthy relationship programming,” Gamache said. 

 Gamache explained the increased safety measures included in the women’s shelter planning. 

“We will have 24/7 security on site, including perimeter checks. An emergency response plan has been developed with the RCMP and will be implemented. Privacy fencing as well as security foliage by the fence for added security. And to increase response time by the RCMP, perimeter lighting, two vestibules, secured access to the buildings, indoor and outdoor security systems, and cameras with real-time video footage to assist RCMP led investigations.” 

People opposing the rezoning spoke about their concerns such as limited access to walking-distance resources, the lack of sidewalks, possible property value decrease in the area, and the presence of industrial traffic. 

All opposed to the project agreed that the women’s shelter is much needed, and they were opposing the location not the shelter itself. 

“We're not the experts here,” Mayor Elisa Brosseau said following the public hearing. “I think if they feel that this is an area where they could go... and they can meet the needs of their clients. I'm completely in support. I think it doesn't matter where they choose to put this...there's always going to be opposition, so I’ve no problem with rezoning it and that's just my two cents.” 




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