The Regina YWCA broke ground Tuesday on its $60-million Centre for Women and Families facility, which will offer 108 housing units and shelter beds for women and children fleeing domestic violence or experiencing homelessness.
The facility will use a wraparound hub model that brings services together in one spot, said YWCA Regina CEO Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen, to "ensure that women and families have a community that works to prevent crisis."
"And when crisis does happen, we'll have a place to call home and the resources needed to navigate systems of support," she said Tuesday.
The 85,000-square-foot facility will provide crisis and preventative supports through the YWCA, working with other community-serving organizations and visiting practitioners.
The intent is to address barriers that keep vulnerable women and children in homelessness and violent situations.
The new facility will include a healing and ceremony lodge, stewarded by Indigenous community members to provide cultural connections and Indigenous ways of knowing.
It will also feature multi-purpose community spaces, access to drop-in supports and essential needs, communal kitchens, and indoor and outdoor play areas.
Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said there is a vital need for those fleeing intimate partner violence to have a safe place to go.
"This is going to be a place where one can receive those wraparound services that we talk about, from mental health to substance use support," Masters said at Tuesday's ground-breaking event.
"But as significant is where Indigenous knowledge and cultural practices will be used to support one's healing journey."
The mayor shared a personal story about how, when she was 18 years old, the Regina YWCA helped her best friend and mother.
The friend revealed that her mother had been experiencing domestic abuse and checked into the YWCA in Regina.
Masters helped her friend pack up her belongings, and the friend came to stay with the Masters family.
"That was the day she moved in with me and [she] finished Grade 12, living with my parents. Her mom stayed at the YWCA for two years and I drove with my friend to Regina to meet them at the YW, going through security checks," Masters said.
"Her mom didn't feel comfortable coming outside the doors, because she just didn't feel safe."
But Masters said her friend's mom went on to own her own home and become a grandmother.
"My friend went on to school and into a very successful career," Masters said.
"It's that web of impact that those two years created, of a safe space for her mom and for my friend that allowed that success to happen."
Elder Diane Kaiswatum , who also spoke at Tuesday's event, said the whole community must work together for the safety of vulnerable women and children.
"First Nations people have always resided in this area — the Cree, the Saulteaux, Lakota," Kaiswatum said.
"And now we're all one, so we need to learn to work together."
Federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen was also on hand for the official start of construction, which is getting $34 million in funding from the federal government. The province is chipping in $1 million and the City of Regina is donating the land in the Cathedral area. YWCA Regina is raising $20 million for the project.
"It is absolutely vital that we create options like this across the housing continuum to help break the cycle of homelessness and family violence," Hussen said.
The facility is expected to open in the fall 2024.