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Red Deer’s Magdalene House shuts doors after running out of money

Recovery facility wants to reopen in the spring to help more victims of the sex trade

A Red Deer recovery home for victims of sex-trafficking has temporarily shut down due to lack of funding.

Staff at Magdalene House had been working since April 2015 to help get sex trade workers off the street.

Most of the 11 women taken in during this time could not stick with the program because of the pull of their addictions was too strong — they ended up leaving before they could be helped, admitted David Bouchard, president of the organization’s board.

But three women stayed from six to 12 months and managed to turn their lives around. Magdalene house staff drove them to counselling and addictions services and other programs.

“We would like to be able to help more women,” said Bouchard. But the group has run out of privately donated money and was forced to close until new operational funding can be obtained from the government or United Way.

Bouchard hopes that since that Magdalene House now has a verifiable track record the group will be considered for on-going funding. Trying to raise donations privately is not sustainable, especially in a slow economy, when service groups and businesses are stretched financially, he said.

An annual budget of $275,000 is needed to shelter and help four women at a time at the staffed facility. Although three annual fundraisers were held for Magdalene House, including a freedom walk and bike ride, these events only jointly raised about $30,000.

Magdalene House gave up its leased premises this month, but furniture was put into storage until more funding can be accessed. Bouchard hopes the organization can restart the recovery home in the spring.

He was moved by the plight of the sex-trade workers who came to the facility and ranged in age from 22 to 32. They generally had low self-esteem, said Bouchard. “One of (the women) wouldn’t even sleep in our bed. She said, ‘I’m not worthy to be here,’ and left… She was one that we most wanted to help.”