A second women's shelter is making efforts to get off the ground in Portage la Prairie. The organization is not related in any way to the current women's shelter in the city, and is focused on pregnancy crises. A public hearing at City Hall's council meeting was made about a request for variation for Hopes Journey Home, proposed to be located on Tupper Street North. Rod Martens, heard of the project, was present to answer any questions regarding his application, and Margaret Ethier, former property owner, was there to support the effort.
Council heard from a letter issued by 18 people who opposed the proposal.
Councillor Preston Meier says the focus was on the variation for the building planned to be constructed in an R3, multi-family residential zone.
"It didn't meet the development guidelines, so they had to apply for a variance," says Meier. "Council was just looking for a little bit more information to find out exactly what was going on on the spot before they would vote in favour or against the variation, and that will be coming back to the next council meeting on a motion to defer."
Residents who displayed concern in a letter were those who were previously concerned and had already been in discussions with the organization moving ahead on the plan.
"They had a variation that was approved by Council, I believe, back in 2021," continues Meier. "Because they weren't able to act on it for whatever their reasons are, it did expire, and they did have to reapply for the variation with new council on board. So, I certainly support their decision to, maybe, revisit it to make sure that they're making the right decision, not only for the benefit of the owner of the property but the citizens' concerns. We take those concerns very seriously and we want to make sure that we can get that common playing ground."
He adds the issue did not concern a conditional use at this point in time, and plans were already approved within the Planning District guidelines, noting he cannot speak in favour or against right now.
Glenda Dyck is on the board of Hopes Journey Home, and says it's a planned home for women who are in a crisis pregnancy, noting there is a great need.
"We've had 12 calls from the traffic division in Winnipeg from Teen Challenge," says Dyck. "We even had one from Edmonton where they found out that there could be a home here for someone, and they needed to get a woman out of Edmonton because she was also trafficked. I was on the board at a different home and we actually had traffic victims in there. It's devastating for them. We've also been foster parents for 24 years, so we see the hurt from both sides."
She says they were hoping to be able to get the groundbreaking going by this time.
"Our groundbreaking date was the 24th of March. We've looked forward to this for five years."
She says the 13 or so people who were opposed have concerns the group is trying hard to understand.
"We feel that we have been very honest all along. We have had a brochure out for about two years stating exactly what we are, exactly who will be there, where we're at with fundraising, and that has continued," notes Dyck. "We have a website, we have a Facebook page. It's all on there. Some of them seem to be concerned that there's going to be snow buildup. Well, living in a city, you deal with your snow and with garbage. It's the same thing. They feel that they will not tolerate a BFI bin. For us, we don't want to have garbage laying around anymore than the next guy. I live out in the country and when I see people throwing garbage on my country roads, I get upset. We certainly don't want it in town because that just turns into an awful mess. Why would you build $1,000,000 home and try to have it exactly perfect, so that these women can feel like they have a home where they can grow, and not deal with snow and trash?"
She adds they're hopeful that the city realizes they've considered all the issues that were raised by neighbours who are concerned.
"We've had a meeting on the yard on our lot there last year, in order to try and communicate with the neighbours. We had two people show up and we understood when they left that they were happy with what we had spoken about, and where things were going and that their concerns were met, that everything was fine. We thought we had met the concerns and because the variance is simply elapsed, and there are a couple of bylaws that have changed, I guess we just thought that we're still looking at the same building. It's been on our newsletter from a year-and-a-half ago. So, it's still the same building and the same people. I think maybe they thought about it more and they're changing their minds."
The issue was delayed for the next council meeting where the city will deliberate more on the planned project.