New affordable housing units will help abused women start over

Published on November 14, 2012

Grace Sparkes House plans to turn the old Sisters of Mercy convent in Marystown into a complex of affordable housing units for women and their children leaving abusive relationships. Paul Herridge Photo

For women leaving abusive relationships, the challenges and barriers they face starting over can be daunting, according to Lisa Slaney.

The Grace Sparkes House executive director acknowledged an affordable housing project the women’s shelter is developing will help with the transition.

Mrs. Slaney said with the purchase of the old Sisters of Mercy convent in Marystown there has been some misconceptions spreading around the shelter is moving from its current location. She assured that is not the case.

“The building itself is not going to be staffed. These are homes. These are self-contained apartments where you have your own key. You go in and it’s yours.

“They’re no different from other private developers in the area who have constructed seniors’ cottages, same pot of money. It’s just we’ve chosen to follow in the footsteps of women because that’s our mandate.”

When the shelter learned the Marystown convent was going up for sale, Mrs. Slaney indicated Grace Sparkes House saw an opportunity. Given the Sisters of Mercy’s own mandate, she said the interest was mutual.

With funding through the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy a deal was struck. An additional funding application for renovations was approved under Newfoundland and Labrador Housing’s Affordable Housing Initiative.

Mrs. Slaney explained work to strip down the inside of the building is complete and it’s hoped construction to rebuild will begin in the next month or so.

Once finished, Mrs. Slaney said the complex will house six universally designed units, one of which will be accessible, and will feature a laundry facility.

A community room, where Grace Sparkes House plans to run its empowerment sessions, will also be open to other groups or individuals to use for events that benefit women, and will have free Internet access.

“We’re trying to make this living environment as affordable as possible for women and eliminate the barriers that they may face.”

Mrs. Slaney indicated a priority will be given to women who have availed of the Grace Sparkes House shelter, but said units will be open to any woman from the Burin Peninsula who meet the criteria.

“There’s a lot of women facing multiple challenges in our communities that we’ll be able to help and support in that regard.”

While she said the complex will not bear a name as such, to recognize the Sisters of Mercy, Mrs. Slaney noted the shelter is asking the Marystown town council to name the street where it’s situated after the organization’s founder, Sister Mary Catherine McAuley.

“It’s great to see so much community interest and the support. We’re looking forward to getting this started and continuing to help women.”