Tammy Williams knows first hand the toll domestic violence can take on a family.
“Close to 20 years ago, I was in a very violent situation myself with two young daughters and I had literally moved all the way to Winnipeg to try and shake this ex-partner of mine,” Williams told Global News.”(I) called up my mother at one point and I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore, please save me, find a way.'”
Williams said her mother called the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre for help. The non-profit group helped bring her and her two children back to Halifax and got Tammy started on a new path in life.
“They helped me regain my footing. They helped me get in touch of my culture again. They provided me with education and training, housing assistance, anything that I needed, I had one place I could come.”
Soon, there will be a new place for Indigenous women and children in the Halifax Regional Municipality to turn.
On Friday, the federal and provincial governments announced they were investing $824,000 to create a four-unit housing development that will in turn create affordable housing.
“These new units are going to provide emergency and transitional housing for single parents and children who are victims of family violence,” said Halifax MP Andy Fillmore.
“The peace of mind that comes with having a secure and stable home is invaluable.”
Minister Joanne Bernard said the new development will be considered second-stage housing, which is longer-term, individual housing, where tenants can live for an extended time.
“I know what second-stage housing means for women who are struggling with their lives and the anchor that a safe and affordable home with wrap-around services can offer,” said Bernard.
“Supports like this are often the difference between whether a woman can face challenges head on in a positive way or the opposite.”
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The new units will be managed by the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, who will also work to provide support services – like counselling, parenting and employment programs – for victims of domestic violence.
“This is a true game changer for the urban Indigenous women,” said Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre.
“We will now have an opportunity to provide that safe, secure housing. But not just the safe and secure housing but the cultural pieces that are so needed to help our healing journeys.”
Bernard said making sure women and children fleeing domestic violence have a safe place to go is an important priority.
“We know Indigenous women need a culturally sensitive approach that supports their specific needs. This unit will help women and children get the support and help they need to improve their lives.”
The next step is for government and the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre to determine where the new housing development will be located, which will take place in the near future.
“To know that this is expanding in a way that they are going to be able to reach out to many more women and families who need that help. That’s monumental,” said Williams.
“That is really near and dear to my heart.”
The funding announcement came the same week the provincial government announced they were changing the way judges and justices of the peace issue emergency protection orders.
Previously, protection orders authorized under Nova Scotia’s Domestic Violence Intervention Act did not extend to First Nations communities. But now, officials are able to issue orders under federal or First Nations laws, giving those living in First Nations communities the same access to emergency protection orders as other Nova Scotians.
For those who are in a situation where they are experiencing a situation of family violence, Williams has this advice.
“If you can find a safe place, get there,” she said. “No matter how bad it hurts, no matter how many times you think ‘I need to go back, this isn’t right,’ stand your ground, stay safe, keep your children safe.”
For more information on accessing resources and tools related to violence and abuse, you can visit the Nova Scotia Domestic Resource Centre here.
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