If not Second Avenue, then where?
For eight years, the Fireweed Collective Society has delivered transition house services in a two-and-half bedroom, apartment-style house for up to eight women and their children in downtown Fort St. James.
While it has been a great place to get our service running, the space can be very crowded. When the house is full it can be noisy and chaotic, and it is difficult to find a quiet corner to relax.
This is not optimal for people dealing with crisis and trauma.
As the current facility is on the main street, it can also be more public than we would like. Women have to exit the house to do laundry, or get a bit of fresh air.
Recently, Fireweed Collective Society purchased a property next to Music Makers on Second Avenue; we will take possession of this beautiful home in September.
The decision for Fireweed Collective Society to purchase the house was a solid business decision. The home is one of the larger places that we deemed suitable for a transition house.
The house would allow us to gain two extra bedrooms and more liveable space inside and out. The house is set back from street, which allows for more confidentiality for women and their children who need our services.
We are upset that the motion to rezone by the Fort St. James mayor and council was defeated in a tie vote.
We chose this neighbourhood because of the variety of zoned lots. There are ten commercial lots. There are five lots zoned for multi-family units. There are six lots that are designated for institutional, and four single-family residential lots.
There are houses for sale all over Fort St. James – Douglas, Elm, Heathmont, Morice Ave, Fourth Avenue. If council feels that Second Avenue, with its variety users and uses, is not an appropriate neighbourhood, then where can we go?
We will reapply for rezoning for our property on Second Avenue when all council members are present. We need community members that support our initiative to relocate the transition house to Second Avenue West to express their views to council.
If we are successful in rezoning our new property, we will continue to be good neighbours, and we will create a peaceful home environment where families can feel welcome.
Purchasing the Sitka building for around $450,000 is not a viable business option. We stand by our decision. We will not put our agency financially at risk.
We would like NVCSS to keep the Sitka building and work with us to develop more services. Our hope is that the space we currently occupy could be leveraged for a new residential service, such as a youth group home or other shelter for people in crisis which the community needs.
One comment made by a councillor to justify turning down our rezoning request was, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” We actually have a lot of broken in our communities. Frontline agencies have heard countless stories about the problems people face.
Our goal is to develop and expand programs and services through partnerships with community agencies, as well as offer employment opportunities.
We are continuing to improve service to our clients and create a better work environment for our employees.
Fireweed’s Contributions to Fort St. James:
- The organization started in 1994
- In 1997, Fireweed opened the Growing Like Weeds store
- In 2000, Partnerships and Fundraising began to build a transition house
- 2002-2004 We partnered with Nechako Valley Community Services to build the addition on the Sitka-raised $160,000 and trained volunteers
- 2004 opened the doors with volunteer staff
- 2005 received provincial funding for the transition house
- 2006 received funding for outreach and counselling services
Fireweed contracts now bring a half million dollars per year into our community.
We employ 13 local women that have been trained to work with women experiencing trauma.
We have delivered countless other grants and programs with economic and social benefits to our community since 1994.
One of the more recent projects was our partnership with CNC to build the Fireweed Kitchen facility in the CNC building in Fort St. James. The investment by CNC and Fireweed has created one full-time and one part-time position at CNC. As well, many students have gained employment because of our investment and fundraising for the initiative.
We have also used the Fireweed Kitchen to provide opportunities for the women who access our services to develop skills. We have delivered programs such as Food Skills for Families, Farmer’s Market Coupon project, Heal for Your Heart, A to Z Cooking, Small-scale Food Entrepreneurship program, and others.
Currently, we have a $214,000 grant running in Fort St. James to deliver youth initiatives around empowerment, health and well being, and transition into young adulthood.
We are trying to build equity so that our organization can continue to develop much needed services within our community.
Brandi Hanterman, Executive Director
Kelley Inden, Chairperson