Northern Haven works to raise awareness about family violence

Donations welcome for women’s emergency shelter

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

COVID-19 has disrupted the Northern Haven Support Society board’s events plans, but it hopes to get these up and running in the new year.

The timing of the Purple Giving Tree is also unknown at this time, but will likely be in the coming weeks. The board planned to decide on the where and when at its Nov. 17 board meeting.

“It’s a big deal for quite a few people,” says board chairperson Lynne Haas. The goal of the giving tree is to collect Christmas gifts, socks, underwear, toques, pajamas, etc.

Often when women and children escape abuse they only have the “clothes on their backs,” says Haas. Having essentials at the shelter that they can have is very helpful. It is especially nice for families who are in the shelter over Christmas to have some presents under the tree.

Leader readers will likely have noticed an ad a few months ago that looked like a cellphone with #SLspeaksout in it. This is part of a Northern Haven board campaign to get people talking about domestic violence. There are also posters around town.

“We’re still moving on it,” says Haas. In the new year, the hope is to take pictures of local people holding up the sign to show their support. However, this has been postponed because of COVID.

Another postponed information campaign targets men and teenage boys. It is called ‘Leading Change’ and focuses on getting men involved in speaking out against and stopping domestic violence.

The plan before COVID intervened was to have a breakfast with 30 businessmen with a trained facilitator. The male facilitator had just returned from speaking about the program in Taiwan before COVID hit.

In May or maybe next fall, the hope is to bring Leading Change into the local high schools to teach teenage boys about consent and how to be in an appropriate relationship.

The hope is also to have a community event to help businesses understand the new Operational Health and Safety guidelines when an employee is being abused at home.

Each year, Northern Haven has a International Women’s Day event on March 8.

“It got in just in the nick of time,” says Haas. Next year will look different, as in 2020 there were 90 women at the breakfast.

“We have very dedicated (board) members,” says Haas. “The dedication of the original members has pushed us a long way.” The society started out offering training in the Victim’s Services office in Slave Lake. Now it runs a shelter and a full community support and outreach program.

Northern Haven has an operational grant from the government, but as part of the agreement the board also has to fundraise – for building upkeep, staff training etc.

“Donations are definitely down,” says Haas, since COVID. However, at the moment the board isn’t focusing on fundraising. The society is a nonprofit with charitable status.

During COVID-19, the number of women and children staying at the shelter has decreased, says Haas. Therefore, the board decided it was a good time to do some renovations and yard work.

“We want it to be a nice, warm, welcoming place when people come in,” she says. Next year, the society will turn 25.

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