Stepping Stones Crisis Society has begun construction on a new facility.

Stepping Stones, formerly Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre, offers short-term emergency accommodations and other programs for women and their children who are struggling with an unhealthy or abusive relationship or have left one.

The new facility will bring all of the society’s existing services—including emergency residential shelter program, second-stage housing program, and community support services—under one roof. It will also allow for expansion of services the society offers.

The new building will help clients “recover from their trauma to their growth and achievement of obtaining the skills and confidence to be able to provide for themselves and their children,” Stepping Stones executive director Susan White said at the groundbreaking ceremony last Wednesday.

“This will be an ongoing process and we are very grateful and excited that this new building will be able to provide those essential steps on the road to recovery for all those who are fleeing from domestic abuse,” she said.

White said Stepping Stones was unable to house 169 women and children who were looking for a bed last year.

The project is supported by all levels of government. The land was donated by the City of Cold Lake, and funding is being provided by the provincial and federal governments.

Alberta seniors, community, and social services minister Jason Nixon attended Wednesday’s ceremony. He said the current housing crisis is a priority for the province.

“My department alone over the next three years will invest $1 billion in new affordable housing units and a quarter billion dollars in rent supplements, just on the affordable housing file,” Nixon said. “I don’t say it to brag. I say it to illustrate what an astronomical challenge we face as a province.”

He said the province cannot tackle the problem without organizations like Stepping Stones Crisis Society and cooperation from the municipal and federal governments “to truly partner on what will be real solutions to some of the great challenges that we face inside our province.”

The new four-storey building will include approximately 50,000 square feet of mixed-use space offering more inclusive and accessible sheltering services and transitional housing. According to a Stepping Stones news release, it will centralize supports for survivors of violence and reduce barriers to access such as reliable transportation. 

The finished building will offer 63 emergency shelter beds and 12 apartments for second-stage residents. All will be adaptable to accommodate different-sized families, and accessible for people with disabilities. It is being built according to net-zero standards, and construction work has been contracted to a local company. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024.

Stepping Stone board members and staff were joined by elected officials to turn the sod on the new construction. JEFF GAYE
“When we take something from Mother Earth, we offer something in return.” Elder Adelard Blackman sprinkles tobacco at the construction site. JEFF GAYE
Susan White shares her enthusiasm for the project. JEFF GAYE
Jason Nixon addresses the audience. JEFF GAYE
Dignitaries including Bonnyville mayor Elisa Brosseau, MLA Scott Cyr, and 4 Wing Commander Col David Turenne chat after the ceremony. JEFF GAYE