CORNWALL, Ontario – Staff of Maison Baldwin House were excited to offer a tour of the facility to Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, Jill Dunlop, on Friday, Aug. 9.
“We are honoured that you have selected our shelter for your visit,” said Executive Director Debbie Fortier. Two children who are currently living at the facility kindly crafted a card for Associate Minister Dunlop, representing her German Shepard.
Before the tour, Fortier spoke about the history of Maison Baldwin House, which has provided services to women and children for over 40 years in the community, whether it be through a crisis hotline or in-person counselling and services.
“We offer a safe haven for women and children who leave their homes due to the many forms of domestic violence,” said Fortier. “We offer a safe place for them to deal with the trauma they have experienced.”
Maison Baldwin House board members, local MPP Jim McDonell, Associate Minister Dunlop and members of local media were invited to tour the 10-bed, wheelchair accessible and secure facility, which consisted of various homey rooms, adorned with local artwork and affirmations of encouragement. A note posted on a fridge, written in a child’s handwriting, read: ‘Be kind. Be aware of others feelings. Don’t always yell.’
Throughout the tour, Fortier discussed various facets of the shelter. Dunlop was impressed with Serendipity Boutique and how it provides funds for the facility, as well as clothing to clients. The boutique’s annual fashion show, held in October this year, was also a positive point of discussion.
It was also noted that mental health workers attend the facility to work directly and quickly with clients, offering a more accommodating experience for them. New Ministry standards that allow clients to stay as long as necessary, until they are prepared and have found a place to live, were also revered in conversation briefly. Clients are known to typically stay for an average of six weeks.
Associate Minister Dunlop said that since her promotion six weeks ago, she has toured various parts of the province, including facilities in Mississauga, Thunder Bay and Sudbury. She is meeting with organizations to better assess first hand what is working and what is not within their current framework of operations. while taking part in Human Trafficking round-table discussions. She has already noticed overarching areas which can be improved upon through her visits.
“The issue of housing…so when women are able to leave the shelter, whether they can afford housing is a common concern across Ontario,” said Associate Minister Dunlop.
“There are some outreach services that are offered through Maison Interlude for our women who are leaving, granted we don’t have second stage housing. However, Cornwall housing has a priority list for victims of domestic violence. Our counsellors do a great job of advocating for our women to get in contact with the right people to help them find a place…but I can see where she’s saying that they want to look at better ways for women moving past the shelter,” said Danielle MacNeil, Public Educator and Volunteer Coordinator.
the roof is a big (demand)…we saw a lot of moisture. the roof is definitely kind of our big thing to get done right now.
Maison Baldwin House’s current biggest concern is replacing the facility’s roof, at an estimated cost of $70,000. The organization is funded through the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS).