Over the past 15 years Rowan House Emergency Shelter has moved from a tiny 2 bedroom basement suite near Black Diamond where we opened in January 2000, to a state of the art, high security 24 bed facility in High River. Since opening, Rowan House has provided family violence prevention and intervention services to communities in Southern Alberta.
Originally named Eagle Women’s Emergency Shelter, the shelter was only large enough to house two women with up to three children each. Funding for outreach was later secured and outreach support began in 2003.
Plans to Grow
Very soon after, it was determined that a larger, secure facility was needed. The large area served, from Calgary in the north, to Claresholm in the south and Vulcan to the east, also meant a more central location should be explored. A feasibility study was commissioned and in 2006 the completed study confirmed there was a need for a larger facility as the old one simply could no longer accommodate the need. More women and children were being turned away due to lack of space than were being housed. The shelter also needed to be high security to better support the families that were accessing help. The study also showed that High River was more central to the area being served. High River was also very receptive to the relocation of the emergency shelter and the domestic violence programming it supported.
Why "Rowan House"?
In July 2007, the name of the shelter was changed to Rowan House Emergency Shelter. The Rowan tree is also known as the Mountain Ash. The berries, often retained through the winter, symbolize the endurance of Life through the dark of the year and the tree itself was said to afford protection to the dwelling by which it grew. Rowan trees have traditionally been associated with peace, sanctuary, privacy, and beauty. The Rowan tree symbolizes what we at Rowan House stand for.
More Than Just a Shelter
By 2008, plans were in place for a capital campaign to raise the dollars needed to build a new emergency shelter located in High River. In 2009, the Branches, preventative education program was launched and prevention work began in the community. This program has expanded every year to a point where over 3000 students are involved at all age levels and numerous community groups, service clubs and individuals have participated in presentations on Healthy Relationships, domestic violence education, the impact of family violence on children, dating violence and anti-bullying.
Brick by Brick
In the fall of 2009 land was acquired and the $3 million capital campaign began. By June 2011 the funds had been secured to begin the build of an 8500 square foot facility with 7 bedrooms, one being wheel-chair accessible, having a multi-sensory room, a spiritual room and programming space. Official sod-turning happened in June and construction commenced in early Fall 2011. The new shelter was complete by June 2012. The old facility was closed and the move to the new location was finalized. With this move to a larger facility, huge growth occurred. We now needed more staff and more resources. We opened to clients on July 30, 2012 and by noon had 3 intake calls and were full to capacity 2 days later! We quickly expanded from the 10 originally funded beds, to 18 beds.
The new Rowan House facility is mortgage free thanks to outstanding support from the local community. The total value of the land and building together is over $1.7 million dollars. However the total trades discounts and donations from contractors, including Rempel Homes who oversaw the project, were over $600,000 dollars – allowing the facility to be built at about two-thirds of the estimated cost.
Rebuilding Once More
Eleven months after opening, we were hit by the June 2013 Floods. We had over 3 feet of water in our lower floor and lost all of the children’s centre, staff areas and programming space, including the multi-sensory and spiritual rooms. Two thirds of staff were also personally impacted and a rebuild of the shelter was necessary. After only 2 months, Rowan House opened without the use of the lower floor and operated on a smaller scale until the remediation of the building was complete. We reopened, fully operational and stronger than ever in January 2014. We had more secure funding and were able to open all 24 of our available beds.
Journey to Trauma Informed Practice
Due to the impact of the disaster, we decided to undergo a review of our practice ensuring we were trauma-informed in everything we do. Learn more
The increasing level of trauma we see in our families and the lack of safe affordable housing for women leaving the shelter has resulted in our exploration of transitional housing. We are currently completing a feasibility study to best determine how to proceed into transitional housing for women fleeing family violence. Our prevention work continues to grow as we look to bring an end to family violence.
The support of the community enabled Rowan House to build and rebuild. We continue to look to the community in order to support the families that struggle to leave abusive relationships behind.