In the basement of Hope Haven Women's Shelter is a medium-sized room filled with interactive panels, soft furniture and complex devices. The floor is padded and the walls are mirrored. Soothing music plays and intriguing scents are released at the push of a button.
This is a Snoezelen room, a multi-sensory environment designed to stimulate multiple areas of the user's brain simultaneously.
Why would such a thing be found in the basement of a women's shelter in a small community hundreds of kilometres from the nearest major city?
Because this is a community that supports its own, says Cassie Putnam, the shelter's executive director.
Putnam says the Snoezelen room was a dream addition to the shelter for the longest time, but it became a reality after Sanjel Energy Corporation donated $90,000 to the shelter. Now the Snoezelen room is her pride and joy.
"We're really excited about how it turned out," Putnam said. "It's hard to imagine ahead of time what it will look like, but we're really pleased."
The Snoezelen room came with a cost of $37,000. The remainder of the donation is being put to use upgrading the shelter's children's play area and gymnasium and setting up a multi-faith room for shelter residents.
Putnam says her goal is for the room to be used to help children who have experienced trauma to begin the mental recovery process.
"It's calming, it's peaceful," Putnam told the POST. "It lets your mind get to that place where healing can start. The children that we've taken in there are just in awe."
The Snoezelen room in the women's shelter is now one of only a few in Alberta. Such rooms are more common in Ontario, where they're most often found in hospitals and mental health centres. Snoezelen rooms are most abundant in Europe, where the concept originated.