Herstory of New Starts

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In 1985, Jeannie Cutts worked in Red Lake at the Patricia Centre for Children and youth as a Family Worker. During a workshop which she was holding, a woman disclosed that she was being abused. Jeannie could find no place in the community to refer this woman to. A need was realized and a group was formed.

The group was from the “grass roots” level and consisted of women with a common concern. They began to have official meetings. Some of the members were Jeannie Cutts (Family Worker), Brenda Brunet (Social Worker), Angela Mclaren (Teacher) and Wilma Zaal (Social Worker).

In the spring of 1986 the group received monies from Community and Social Services to complete a ‘Needs Assessment’ in the Red Lake and Ear Falls area. They received $10,000.00. The group then became incorporated later that year and applied to Com Soc (Community and Social Services) for further funding to open a shelter. New Starts for Women Inc. was born. Com Soc required that the New Starts committee demonstrate a need for a centre prior to designating funding. New Starts proposed that a transportation service be established. The service proposed was non-profit and volunteer.

By March of 1987, there were ads in the local newspaper “The District News”, for volunteers willing to offer their time and vehicle to take victims of family violence to a safe place out of Red Lake, such as Dryden, Sioux Lookout and Kenora. There was also an ad placed for a volunteer to answer a crisis line.

On October 4th and 5th of 1987, the Board met with two resource people from Manitoba to further facilitate planning activities. They met with Dale McKenzie of the Manitoba Wife Abuse Program and Marlene Bertrand, Director of Osborne House. Jennifer McKibbon (President), Brenda Brunet (Chairperson), Zofia Eichenlaub, Jeannie Cutts, Rhona Karschti, Glenda Bishop, Wilma Zaal and Marjorie McCrae were all present from the Board of Directors of New Starts.

During 1987, New Starts for Women expanded its service to include a full-time staff person and 24 hour crisis telephone and transportation availability.

The Board of Directors was very concerned about domestic violence in the Red Lake area and continued working to combat the problem during 1988. They hoped to improve the transportation network for battered women, along with recruiting public speakers to boost public awareness of the problem in the community. They decided it was a priority to increase the number of proposals to government for funding, as well. Training was initiated for taxi drivers in the community, who wished to know how to handle battered women situations.

In 1989 the Board began writing letters to townships of Ear Falls, Red Lake and Golden requesting to be placed on their agenda for meetings in January or February. They wished to make presentations to the three councils to inform them of the group itself and to make them aware of their goals and intentions. The O.P.P. said they would be supportive of a shelter in the area.

Lyn McLeod, Minister of Colleges and Universities and the Minister responsible for Northern Social Issues met with members of the New Starts Board on March 20 of 1989 in Red Lake. This meeting was to discuss their proposal for a transition house. Attending this meeting with Lyn McLeod was also Susan Braun, Acting District Manager for Community and Social Services and Dee Durkot, Program Supervisor for Community and Social Services out of Kenora. Attending from New Starts were Brenda Brunet, Chairperson, Shiela Robertson, Anna Miller, Jeannie Cutts and staff person, Marion Perrow.

Then on March 22nd a presentation was made by New Starts at a Golden Township Council meeting on the history, function and goals of the transportation network. Brenda Brunet briefly outlined history of the organization.

“In 84/85 dollars became available to deal with the problem of family violence in northwestern Ontario. Kenora, Dryden and Sioux Lookout received monies which were used to build shelters. At the same time, there was money available for a shelter in Red Lake; however, because there was no organized group in Red Lake to receive the money, the area was passed over.

In 1985 a group of women identified the need for a shelter here. They received $10,000.00 from the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services to conduct a “needs assessment”. The result of the study was that they set up the transportation network which has been running for a year and a half.”

On the issue of funding, council was informed that the Ministry of community and Social Services would pay the capital cost of the house. After that, the municipality would be expected to pay 20% of the per diem charge for a woman who used the shelter. Council was informed that when the proposal for a shelter in Red Lake was completed, they would return to council for a letter stating that the municipality would agree to pay the per diem when the transition house became a reality. The letter would accompany the proposal to the Ministry of community and Social Services.
In September of 1989, Frank Miclash, M.P.P. announced a $460,000 grant for a shelter. It was funded by the provincial government through the capital projects branch of the Ministry of Social Services. The money would be devoted primarily to set-up and operating costs for the first year, with additional grants coming every year to cover future operating costs.

On January 17, 1990 the Town approved the sale of lot “Block D” on Westerlund Street for $20,000. On February 07, a public meeting of the Township of Red Lake was held regarding the proposed zoning by-law amendment to be set for March 14. At the March 14 meeting there was opposition from residents on Westerlund Street and the nearby area. They did not want the proposed shelter for abused women in their backyard.

Another Public meeting was held in April of 1990 regarding a proposed zoning by-law amendment for New Starts’ current address. On April 18, 1990 notice was given of the passing of the zoning by-law amendment for our now current address.

New Starts then invited tenders for the construction of a nine bed facility with a closing for tenders on August 30th at 3:00 p.m. On January 16, 1991 advertising for staff was commenced with a closing date of February 4th.

On February 15, 1991, major construction of the shelter was completed and on March 27, 1991 we celebrated the opening of the shelter with a ribbon cutting ceremony. On Tuesday, April 02, 1991 the New Starts for Women Shelter officially opened its doors to abused women in Red Lake and its catchment area.

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