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Neglected women’s shelter proposal revived by Meffe

The warm sentiments of the holiday season moved a pensive councillor Peter Meffe to resurrect a seemingly dead mayoral task force report on the need for a women’s shelter in Vaughan.

Council established the Mayor’s Task Force on Women’s Shelter Needs in June, 2006 to look into the level of need for a shelter in Vaughan, and to craft a plan outlining what would be needed in bringing one to the city.

In its final report to council in February, the task force concluded that the need is genuine and a shelter for abused women should be established.

Since then, however, the report has received no further official attention from the city, prompting Meffe’s reminder to council earlier this month.

“For some reason, it fell through the cracks,” he said last week. “Seeing that this is the season of giving and joy and happiness, it’s a shame that, once again, we’re going through a year where there’s women that don’t have a place to go in times of need in southern York Region.

“That’s a sad thing to realize, and I felt it was appropriate that we got everybody back on track and moving on this issue.”

In preparing the report, the task force found that the resources in the region’s two women’s shelters — in Aurora and Georgina — are stressed to capacity, resulting in waiting lists and women leaving the region to find help.

The February report estimated the annual cost of a new, 15-bed shelter with outreach counselling to be $512,000. While doing its research, the task force found a sympathetic entrepreneur willing to provide a location, though $250,000 in renovations would be needed to meet provincial standards.

“It was through our process that we identified a private individual that was willing to play a role here,” Meffe said of John Di Poce, a local philanthropist who shies away from the spotlight. “He’s continually given back to his community over the years and has played a significant role as a philanthropist in many arenas, not simply this one.”

Finding Di Poce and securing his commitment to provide a possible location for the shelter is an example of the tangible work the task force did, Meffe says, proving that the process was more than “just a kick in the pants” of the region or province.

“It was actually going out there and providing the actual apples, not just pie in the sky,” Meffe said of the city’s involvement. “We had the actual contents of that apple pie.

“But now building the pie is certainly something the province, and in particular the Region of York, should play a role with, especially when you look at opportunities for funding that may be available because of that GTA pooling coming back.”

While the task force’s report detailed estimated costs for a shelter in Vaughan, it also pointed to several possible sources of funding, including autonomous fundraising, and provincial and federal programs. The report made no mention of funding from York Region.

“The (proposed) shelter in Vaughan is for victims of violence and those shelters are covered by the province,” said York Region spokesperson Tim Paleczny. “York Region provides emergency shelters for homeless women.”

Shelters for abused women fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services, which accepts, assesses and prioritizes proposals based on population growth areas, occupancy rates, and shelter beds for francophone and aboriginal women and children.

Ministry spokesperson Anne Machowski said in an email last week that a funding proposal for a women’s shelter in Vaughan has been submitted and “is currently being reviewed”.

Vaughan Today
Online: December 26, 2007 [link]