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Warm Zone staying open, still looking for funding

Nancy Doyle, a Warm Zone volunteer and former client, leaves her mark on a poster at the community relationship building event in Jubilee Park on Thursday. - Neil Corbett photo
Nancy Doyle, a Warm Zone volunteer and former client, leaves her mark on a poster at the community relationship building event in Jubilee Park on Thursday.
— image credit: Neil Corbett photo

The Warm Zone, a drop-in centre for women who are "street entrenched" in downtown Abbotsford, will remain open for another few months.

That was the good news at a relationship building event on Thursday afternoon in Jubilee Park, where there was barbecue, games, a band and a dunk tank with Abbotsford Police officers.

Federal funding for the facility has run out, and rumors have been swirling that the Warm Zone would close in September. It is operated by the Women's Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, and executive director Dorothy Henneveld and president Ellen Boyes were at Jubilee Park to announce that they have some funds to continue operation for "a few months," and hope to secure government funding for the $270,000 per year budget.

"It's our priority this years to do whatever we can to keep the program moving on," Boyes told a crowd that included about half of the centre's clients, volunteers, police officers, local politicians and member of the public. "It's a warm place, and our warmth is for you."

Henneveld noted it is donations from individuals and businesses that have kept the lights on at the Warm Zone.

"I had an individual walk up and give us $10,000 last week," she told the crowd.

Now, she said government needs to also be convinced of the value of the facility.

Many of the clients shared their stories on the mic and in conversation with those attending.

Marcy Doyle was an addict who lived on the streets for five years in Chilliwack, and more time in downtown Abbotsford.

For her, the Warm Zone was more than just a place to have a shower and a meal, and their caring approach got her off the streets.

"It's just the family orientation. They're like friends and councillors. They really care. They give you a hug, a word of encouragement – whatever you need."

She is upgrading to get her high school diploma, and is getting straight As. She has done 115 hours as a Warm Zone volunteer and peer counsellor. She is going to visit family in Alberta, and would like to get a job as a commercial driver.

The idea of the Warm Zone closing is a "sad story," she said.

"I've cried about five times here."

Warm Zone coordinator Michele Giordano said it took courage for the women to stand up and tell their stories in public on Thursday, but she was not surprised. The event was their idea.

"They know the importance of this, and of their voice," she said.

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