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Nanaimo Women's Centre moves, expands services

Before its move, the Nanaimo Women’s Centre had become so cramped it was meeting some clients in the backyard. People were being counselled among stacks of clothing donations and certain programs had to be held off site.

The resource centre was packed with people – many in crisis – according to executive director Lesley Clarke, who said it was starting to feel like the centre was unable to meet the needs of its clients.

The organization moved last week with the help of relocation aid from the City of Nanaimo. It will now be housed out of the Archie Johnstone building on Wallace Street, a space more than five times as large as its former home in the Old City Quarter.

The move, paid for with a $165,000 grant, will now allow the not-for-profit agency to expand programs for men and families and offer a one-stop shop of services ranging from healthy cooking classes to counselling, tenancy aid and advocacy.

“It’s a huge sense of relief among staff and volunteers and I think clients as well feel the same thing because we aren’t under the stress of trying to offer as many services as we do in a space that isn’t adequate,” said Clarke.

The Nanaimo Women’s Centre started looking for a space this fall, recognizing its lease expired in December and it had outgrown its space.

Lisa Marie Barron, project development coordinator, said it had never been adequate to provide the services needed in the community and limited what the agency was able to provide clients.

For example, it couldn’t safely house both women in crisis and families with men  simultaneously, which meant at times, staff members had to meet families off site or in the backyard. There was also only one counselling room. If the space was booked and a woman under crisis dropped in, the centre “just couldn’t meet their needs,” said Clarke.

In the new space, there could now be three counselling rooms, a separate area to store donations and workshop space. Female clients will have a ‘safe space’ separate from an area slated to provide programs and resources for families and men.

The move happened last week with the help of volunteers from the Young Professionals of Nanaimo. The new location will open Jan. 2.

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