Facility for victims of crime gets boost from province toward expansion goal

A Winnipeg non-profit that supports victims and survivors of violent crime is getting money from the province to help expand the space and support it provides — bringing it almost halfway to its fundraising goal.

Cecilly Hildebrand, executive director of Candace House, said the $200,000 the organization is getting from the Manitoba government puts a bit of a dent in the roughly $750,000 it will need to renovate the space it leased next door.

She said the total raised now stands around $350,000, with other contributions from the Winnipeg Foundation, the Thomas Sill Foundation and Assiniboine Credit Union.

Hildebrand said since opening in 2018, Candace House’s Kennedy Street space near the law courts in Winnipeg has seen increasing demand for its services, which include help for families when they attend trial and a place to get away when they leave the courtroom.

Now, she said the organization is having a hard time helping all the families who ask for assistance, which is why opening a second space is so crucial.

“It really is meant to be a place where families feel safe, where it’s private, it’s away from the law courts. And we want them to feel love,” she said at a news conference on Thursday.

“We want families to feel like it’s their home away from home.”

Hildebrand said she hopes to raise enough money to have the new space up and running by late fall or early winter.

Edward Balaquit, whose father Eduardo went missing in 2018, said Candace House was a haven for him and his family earlier this year, during the trial of the man later convicted in Eduardo’s death.

“Mentally, overall, it wasn’t easy. We learned things that we wanted to know but that [were] difficult to hear,” he said at the news conference.

“Any questions that we had, or if we had to vent, [staff at Candace House] talked us through it and just clear[ed] up any concerns that we would have had coming out of trial.”

Kyle Pietz was found guilty of manslaughter in Eduardo’s presumed death last month.

Edward Balaquit, seen outside the Winnipeg law courts during the trial of the man later convicted of killing his father, said Candace House was a haven for his family during that time. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The existing space includes a living room, dining room, kitchen, play area for kids and a space for smudging. Hildebrand said the idea is to replicate it next door.

Candace House was the vision of Wilma and Cliff Derksen, who became advocates for victims of crime after their daughter, 13-year-old Candace, was killed in 1984.

The province said in a news release the money it’s spending comes from the $25-million Building Sustainable Communities fund.

It will help cover the capital costs of the organization’s expansion to over 3,600 sq. ft. from the existing 1,500 sq. ft., the release said.

The facility offers court accompaniment, information about the justice system, a meal program and access to holistic and culturally safe support through partner organizations, the province’s release said.

In its first three years, Candace House has helped more than 500 family members and loved ones in the cases of 58 people lost to violent crime, it said.

Hildebrand said Candace House is also working on expanding its services to help families earlier on in the process, before the date of the trial arrives.

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