Refuge for women, children approved

Women and children fleeing family violence could have a new haven by fall. An affordable housing project proposed by Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society received an approving nod from Red Deer’s municipal planning commission on Monday.

An artist’s rendering of Julietta’s Place.

An artist’s rendering of Julietta’s Place.

Women and children fleeing family violence could have a new haven by fall.

An affordable housing project proposed by Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society received an approving nod from Red Deer’s municipal planning commission on Monday.

Slated to be called Julietta’s Place, the 10-suite residence at 4917 55th St. would provide temporary transitional housing for women and their children. Residents would also have access to outreach support and counselling.

Barb Barber, executive director of Central Alberta Women’s Outreach, said the apartment-style building would be available to clients of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter and others escaping abusive homes. These people often have trouble finding affordable accommodation, she explained.

“Currently, there’s no housing model of this kind in our community,” she said, stressing that Julietta’s Place would not be a women’s shelter.

“This is transitional housing.”

Helping Women’s Outreach with the project is River City Developments Ltd. That company, which is owned by Ken Wessel, recently worked with Catholic Social Services to develop an affordable housing project for people with developmental disabilities, acquired brain injuries or fetal alcohol syndrome.

Wessel said rents at Julietta’s Place would be 20 to 25 per cent below market levels.

Such affordable and safe housing, said Barber, would give residents time to assess their options and draw upon the resources available to them.

The duration of residents’ stays would vary, depending on their circumstances, Wessel added.

He expects work on Julietta’s Place to begin in early March and wrap up by fall. An existing house on the lot would be removed.

Four of the suites in the new, two-storey building would contain three bedrooms, four would have two bedrooms and the remaining two units would each have one bedroom. Women’s Outreach would own the building.

Wessel placed the cost of the project at more than $1.4 million.

The city has already agreed to provide $1.05 million of provincial and federal money allocated for affordable housing projects in Red Deer, and an ice-sculpting fundraiser was held in support of Julietta’s Place last month. More money is expected to be generated through borrowing and other fundraising, said Wessel.

The project’s name was prompted by a suggestion from city historian Michael Dawe.

Dawe said Julietta (pronounced Juletta) and Gordon Sorensen were longtime city residents who lived on the property for decades. In fact, they built the existing house around 1942 — using for its core an old schoolhouse that they moved onto the site.

“Mr. and Mrs. Sorensen owned the bus service in Red Deer,” said Dawe. “Actually, the Red Deer transit system was really run by them for a long time. They also had the Greyhound bus depot.”

The couple raised their family there, he continued, with Julietta remaining after Gordon died in the early 1980s. Dawe bought the lot about four years ago, after Julietta died.

“It was always her home,” he said of his motivation for suggesting the name he did.

Dawe also believes the purpose of the Women’s Outreach facility will reflect its namesake’s character.

“She was one of the most good-hearted, wonderful people that you could ever meet.”

Wessel praised Dawe for selling the lot for “a much reduced price.”

“I thought this was not only a good use of the property, but also a cause that I could truly believe in,” said Dawe, who also plans to support the project with a donation.

“I’m hoping that will prompt other people to step forward and also support it.”

Barber said Wessel’s involvement has also been invaluable.

“With having River City Developments on board we’re actually now able to make that concept a reality.”

Wessel said he hopes to build more affordable housing for groups like Women’s Outreach.

“We’d like to do one of these units every year.”

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