The Brandon and area YWCA has made the difficult decision to close the doors to their Meredith Place location in downtown Brandon.

The decision comes as a result of a recent building inspection that revealed in-depth renovations were needed on the century-old building.

Heather Symbalisty is the Executive Director of the YWCA of Brandon Meredith Place and Westman Women's Shelter. 

Symbalisty says receiving the report on the building’s structure needs was certainly a disappointment, and now they’re putting plans in place for clients and programs to continue from a different location, come the month of May.

“The YWCA has been in Brandon for 115 years in the Westman Region, so yes, it definitely was a difficult decision for us to make.  The building assessment and other professional opinions that we got was that the structure here at Meredith Place would need some really high-level fixes, either to renovate or move forward.”

“Meredith currently has 21 individual transitional house rooms for individuals who have experienced a variety of concerns withing their personal life with homelessness, or transitioning from living at home with parents or other living situations, to help them move forward in a healthy manner to independent living,” she explains.

“We’ve also got family emergency space for when families have experienced a fire, or if families have been evicted for reasons not their own, until they can find more permanent residence,” adds Symbalisty.

The housing facility also offers 3 meals a day, and programs to help face day-to-day challenges, to learn healthy habits and new ways to move forward in a healthier lifestyle.

By May, the YWCA will have a number of things in place, for both their clients and their support programs.

“We have committed to finding [our clients] housing before we close the door May 1st. So, we’re going to be working with all of the agencies in the Westman Region and reaching out to help find housing for all of those individuals.”

“We do not want to create a homeless situation because of this decision.  We know it’s going to leave a big gap in the interim,” she notes.

The YWCA Board of Directors will be looking at their options over the next few months to decide which direction to go.  “Whether that’s going to be building a new building or expanding all of our services in a different way, it has yet to be firmly decided.” 

When asked if COVID had a part to play in this decision, Symbalisty says the pandemic did certainly create its own set of challenges, but it also revealed to them how the older building’s floor plans don’t accommodate to the needs of today, including social distancing, but also wheelchair accessibility.  

“We’ve got some barriers, and we recognize that we need to create a better space so we can be able to serve everyone in our community.  So, definitely COVID has exposed some of those concerns to us, but it wasn’t a main issue to make this decision.”

Symbalisty says the Westman Women's Shelter will be continuing its programs as normal, but they will be looking at ways to raise funds to replace Meredith House and the service that building provides for the Westman community.

“We need to secure some additional funding to be able to support our services moving forward. So, we’re going to be doing a lot of grant applications and looking at different avenues to get the tools that we need to carry on with our services,” she adds.