Marginalized women have one less place to turn to.
The Vernon Women’s Centre has permanently closed its doors after more than 30 years because of ongoing funding issues.
“This was an extremely difficult decision,” said Emily Mayne, society chairperson.
“We hung on as long as we could. We couldn’t maintain core services.”
The centre provided women with access to laundry, food and shower services, as well as personal safety and awareness training, legal advocacy, counselling, resources for single mothers and referrals for women experiencing violence.
About 1,500 women walked through the door last year, and Mayne is concerned that many of them won’t meet the eligibility requirements for other programs in Vernon.
“It means there is a big gap for low-income, marginalized women,” she said, adding that one focus for the centre was Vernon’s sex trade workers.
“If you are just plain poor, there’s not a lot of resources.”
Financial difficulties began in 2004 when the provincial government reduced funding levels for women’s centres across B.C.
Federal funding has also been cut to the centre.
Most of the grants that exist now are program-based, but Mayne says the challenge is finding money for day-to-day core operations.
“There’s nothing that keeps the lights on or the phone bill paid,” she said.
“If you can’t do that, you can’t provide programs.”
It cost between $15,000 and $20,000 a year to run the drop-in program.
Mayne says the centre couldn’t have survived over the last few years if it wasn’t for donations from residents, groups and businesses.
“The centre would like to thank the Vernon community for its tremendous support over the years,” she said.