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A safe place for now

In a year to 18 months the Metro Community Centre will most likely be torn down, but that didn’t stop an open house from getting under way to show off the new safe centre for women.

The grand opening of the Norreen Rae Branson Learning Centre and Safe Centre for Women came just one day after City Council gave the thumbs up to building a 26 storey hotel in the exact spot the Metro stands.

However Laurence East, Primary Executive of the Metro, says it was no surprise the motion was passed by council to build the hotel as WestCorp Developments, the owners of the building, continuously kept the Metro up to date with plans to tear down the centre.

“We have our own plans, we are very excited, but we can’t talk about them yet,” says East of a new location for the Metro. “There is a whole consortium of partners coming together for a new home for Metro.”

But some might beg the question, why did the Metro renovate the space, previously occupied by the Okanagan Pride Society, in a building that is set to be demolished.

“It could be a year, it could be 18 months (until we have to move). Frankly two weeks, 10 days is a long time in a life of somebody who is homeless. So is it worth it absolutely,” answers East.

“If it provides a sense of hope and dignity to somebody who doesn’t have those things, then I think it is worth every penny that gets invested in it.”

The Metro is actually looking for another $15,000 to meet their funding targets, after renovating the 1000 sq ft space into a much needed shower, vanity room and learning centre for women.

Robyn Rochan used to live on the streets of Kelowna and she works at the Metro. She knows what it means to have a safe place to go when you’re homeless.

“Morning comes and you’re cold, you’re dirty. It is really exhausting, because just finding a place to get changed, or a change of clothes, getting yourself fed, washed up it can be a whole day to do that sometimes,” she explains. “So when we open in the morning people are waiting.”

About 4 to 5 women use the safe centre from Tuesday to Thursday to get showered, changed and feel secure while doing so.

“On the street they have guys right there, when they are in the main shelters in our city they have guys right there, and when they were coming into our centre they had guys right there,” explains East of a woman’s life on the street. “So, we thought why not have a special place that the girls can just be in and use and be in peace and know they don’t have to contend with males.”

The Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna contributed 50 per cent of the costs to get the centre up and running.

The building is rented by the Metro from Westcorp, the developer who is set to build the new hotel.

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