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New Women's Centre opens its doors

A year-long struggle for a permanent home has ended in a bright, open, polished new space on Third Avenue for the Howe Sound Women's Centre Society.

A year-long struggle for a permanent home has ended in a bright, open, polished new space on Third Avenue for the Howe Sound Women's Centre Society.About 50 people came to an open house on Wednesday (May 14) to celebrate the official opening of the women's centre's new home in a renovated building at 38021 Third Ave. Visitors circulated and chatted among the rooms that form the new drop-in centre, counselling rooms, staff offices and boardroom.Women's Centre Society staff and volunteers were visibly delighted with their new home."We're absolutely thrilled, obviously, to have a permanent new home - it has secured our future for the long term, and it's given us a great space to bring in our drop-in centre, our counselling support rooms and offices," Executive Director Allison Twiss said, adding that the facility will allow the centre to "provide better services to the community ultimately."Twiss said the society is also pursuing plans to develop upstairs rental units into one-year housing facilities for women leaving abusive relationships. Currently, it offers five- or 30-day stays in a transition house and a safe house, but the longer-term stability is important, Twiss said.Centre staff had already moved into the new facility on April 12 after an intense six weeks of construction work on the former massage parlour, following the purchase of the site in late February. Contractors had to rip out jacuzzis, sinks, mirrors and equipment, tear down walls, install a kitchen and paint everywhere.Office assistant and support worker Wendy Junkin said the building used to look "horrible," but now it's completely different."We're just happy we have a home at all, but the fact that it's such a nice one, and so many people worked so hard to get it, that makes it extra special," she said.Westmana Development Corporation gave the Women's Centre $105,000 to buy the building and $80,000 to renovate it, and the society now has complete ownership of the facility.The Women's Centre had to move from its former location on Loggers Lane after plans by Westmana and Mamquam Oceanfront Channel Development Ltd. for a 52-unit condominium building on the waterfront included those lands.Westmana then worked with the society, the district and other involved parties to secure a permanent home for the group and its services.Westmana principal René David was on hand for the opening, as were Mayor Ian Sutherland, Chief Gibby Jacob and Councillor Dale Harry of the Squamish Nation, and District of Squamish Director of Planning Cameron Chalmers. All received plaques from the society to express its gratitude for their involvement in securing the facility.Sutherland and Jacob said the centre is of great value to the community, providing vital services that many use."[The centre] is hugely important; it's been a mainstay in the community for a long time," Sutherland said.David said Westmana will also continue to work with the Sea to Sky Community Services Society, another former tenant in the Loggers Lane building, to find them a permanent home. Mamquam partners in the development project and the donation, David added.

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