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NDP accelerates funding for cash-strapped women's shelters

Supporters of Byrony House and other transition houses rallied outside Province House for the NDP government to accelerate funding for cash-strapped women's shelters.

You Can’t Beat A Woman.

Those words were scrawled across purple T-shirts worn Thursday by supporters of Bryony House and other transition houses. It’s also the message they were sending to the Nova Scotia government as they stood outside Province House demanding more funding for women’s shelters across the province.

It seems that message is getting through, as Thursday’s throne speech from Lt.-Gov. Mayann Francis promised the new NDP government “will increase funding for transition houses to support the vital work they do in our communities.”

In fact, Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse said the province is accelerating its $500,000 commitment for women’s shelters, doling out the much-needed dough next spring instead of in “year two” as planned.

"We do understand the situation and the need, and that’s what we’re here for, we’re here for the people of Nova Scotia and the most vulnerable,” she said. But Peterson-Rafuse said a decision on any follow-up funding hasn’t yet been made.

She said the New Democrats want to work with women’s shelters and other groups, instead of creating a “you against us” scenario.

“We’d like to try to change that way of viewing government,” she added.

Lori Walton of newly formed network Friends of Transition Houses called Thursday’s unexpected news “fantastic,” but said more money is needed since operational funding has been frozen since 1996.

Walton said the cash committed doesn’t mean Bryony House will be able to bring back its outreach worker, who was laid off last month. Two other full-time workers at the Halifax women’s shelter have had their hours reduced due to cutbacks.

Earlier Thursday, Walton and more than 40 other demonstrators wore green ribbons and hung green bows on a Hollis Street fence “to signify renewal and abundance.”

“A renewal in the way public monies are distributed and a renewal in the ways that government and communities interact,” Walton said. “It is ultimately the women in our communities who are suffering.”

Bryony House worker Jennifer McKeen said she received four distress calls Wednesday “that should have been referred to outreach – unfortunately we did not have that option.”

 
 
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