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Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation provides update on Jessie’s House

by Lucie Roy

Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation (JMMF) Community Engagement Coordinator Teena Hughson made a presentation at the Feb. 5 Chamber meeting on the Foundation’s work and why everyone wants to hear about Jessie’s House.

Hughson spoke of the shelters in Alberta with stats reported by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters. She said last year they provided over 78,000 services to women, children and seniors and how over 24,000 were turned away due to a lack of capacity.

The good news, Hughson said, is that 96 per cent of the woman and seniors who do enter shelters did not go back to their abusers.

“The shelters that are able to provide services or people accessing them are getting the job done,” she said. “People are getting the services, support and healing that they need in order to start a life without violence.”

Unfortunately, Hughson told attendees, violence is on the rise, and 66% were assessed with facing severe and esteem levels of danger.

“The people accessing a shelter have not had a bad day or argument with their spouse; these people are fleeing death and life circumstances at home,” Hughson said.

Last year shelters received 60,000 crisis calls and the outreach Program, similar to the one that JMMF offers, served more than 7500 individuals.

Hughson covered stats on domestic violence towards men and said Jessie’s House is going to be an inclusive shelter.

“We set upon this version for a home that is going to provide a safe haven for any individuals in the community and their families facing violence at home, including men,” she said. “It is an area that demands more research.”

Meeting Regional Needs

Hughson said the Foundation’s primary area of service for the Outreach Program is the rural region and communities within the Sturgeon Region.

“Our Outreach Program is designed to be responsive to the needs of the individual, so no one person receives the same kind of services, and it is mobile because we understand that not everyone has the financial resources or means to travel to a larger centre like St Albert for services,” Hughson said.

Jessie’s House will be a new service for the region, the first new emergency shelter to be constructed in Alberta in 22 years. Although built to service the Sturgeon region, Hughson said it might reach further.

“We also recognize that we stand to capture a very large area. If you look at shelter services in the province Parkland County does not have any shelter services, Westlock County is without shelter services, Thorhild County is without shelter services and so is Smoky Lake County,” Hughson said. “So we are definitely filling a substantial need.”

Fundraising

JMMF is looking for community support in their room sponsorship program. They have seven bedrooms, four family rooms, and a unique feature available to be sponsored.

They are also engaged in other fundraising opportunities.

“We need money to operate Jessie’s House and to continue the Outreach Programming,” Hughson said. “At this point, we don’t have any assurance of operational funding from the provincial government, so we are constantly canvassing our community for more financial support.”

They are currently looking for Financial Gifts and encourage monthly giving, one-time or matching gifts through ATB Cares a program that matches 15 per cent of a gift up to a maximum of $15,000 a year.

Since the New Year, the Foundation has been promoting the Jessie’s House Gift Registry. Home Hardware has taken upon themselves to set up a donation. customers can pick up some items for the House and drop them in the bin. A chopper raffle is also underway in conjunction with this year’s annual Bumper-to-Bumper Show and Shine.

An upcoming fundraiser is The Karokonuts at Coach’s Corner Feb. 29 and the Ride for Mom on May 9. They have been selected as the beneficiary this year of the annual motorcycle ride and look forward to seeing lots of motorcycles in Morinville.

Hughson also mentioned the Break Free & Bloom Gala to be held Apr. 25 at CFB Edmonton and the sponsorship packages available.

Challenges & Opportunities

Despite fundraising, long-term funding for the operation of Jessie’s House will be a challenge. The JMMF is requesting letters of support and encourage everyone to write to the provincial government requesting support for the shelter.

Hughson said their website was flooded with hundreds of visitors in the last three weeks as they posted many new job opportunities.

The Foundation would operate with 25-30 positions once the house is fully operational.

Hughson said they are creating opportunities for people in the region with the chance to gain employment and soon will become a medium-sized employer in the region.

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