In 1979 the Shelter doors opened, and we were incorporated under the Grande Prairie Womens Residence Association. At the time of our opening we operated under the name ‘Croken House’. That name would stay in operations for years to come.
In 1980 Social Services in Canada were generally a provincial government responsibility, but the federal government came through with funds to get the women’s hostel off the ground in Grande Prairie. Margaret Bowes, was the president of the GPWRA (Grande Prairie Womens Residence Association) at the time, she was quoted stating “Ottawa has approved $11,902 grant to allow four students to be hired to staff the hostel for about three months”. Mrs. Bowes than began negotiations to obtain a house in the central part of the city, which could accommodate up to 10 women.
The shelter has always placed a large importance on our volunteers & volunteer appreciation programs. In 1981 The Board Members (this is formally know as Board to Directors today) hosted a volunteer appreciation wine & cheese party at the Grande Prairie Motor Inn. Certificates were presented to individuals and companies that helped our organization set up its new location that year. Volunteers pictured here : (from left to right) Myrna Jacques, (Beta Sigma Phi) ; Ian Hassell, (Commercial Paint Contractors Ltd); Carol-Lee Eckhardt, (Grass Roots Design Ltd); Chris Turnmire, (Spot Realty) ; Robin McIntosh, (Field, Field and Field); & Ron Wilson. Over the years volunteering has grown and changed but one thing remains the same the incredible gratitude we have for those who lend a helping hand.
In 1982 “Guest” (today’s term would be residents, service user or clients) began staying at the shelter. At the time 15.9 % of individuals staying at Croken House were in emergency situations. 23.2 % of women who were staying there were seeking both accommodations and employment opportunities, 8.5 % had employment but needed accommodations. 11.7% of women were between employment & accommodations which at the time referred to an oilfield worker who needed a place to stay for a few days when she would be off work and was waiting to start another job as it was not safe to return to her previous home. Transient women who didn’t intend to stay in Grande Prairie accounted for 13.4 % of the women visiting Croken House at that time. The average age of women who were staying in the “hostel” (today’s terminology would be emergency shelter) was 24.1 years of age and 8 children under the age of 16 had stayed at the shelter with their parent. The average length of stay back then was 3.8 days. In the 2018 - 2019 year the average length of stay was 24 day for the Emergency Shelter.
On Wednesday, June 1983 Odyssey House’s new playground was built. The women’s residence added the secure play area and equipment, through a grant from the city. Norine Stirling (left) president of the GP Women’s Residence Association and Ruth Johnson, Children’s Program Coordinator thanked Mayor Hugh Impey for the city’s efforts back in 1983. On June 16th, 2018 the Odyssey House team along side members of the community came together to build our current Natural Playscape, which includes a hammock, children’s trauma bird nest, flagstone path ways, water fountain, pergola, children’s mud pie making station, wood block station, sandbox, secondary seating area and pallet couch.
1984, the shelter was up and running a space safe for women during a time of change , by then women made up 32.3 per cent of all Canadian unionists. Strong feminists such as Madeleine Parent in the Canadian Textile and Chemical Union had awakened some in the labor movement to women’s particular oppression in employment and in unions themselves, and two independent unions in British Columbia — the Service, Office and Retail Workers’ Union of Canada and the Association of University and College Employees — updated the feminist challenge. The 1978 strike by women in Ontario’s Fleck auto-parts plant, like nurses’ strikes in Nova Scotia, Alberta and Saskatchewan in the 1970s and 1980s, roused many feminists. Labor’s growing support was clear when Grace Hartman, the first female president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (1975), campaigned for both pay equity and the Royal Commission on the Status of Women (RCSW). Radical feminist groups such as Women Against Violence Against Women condemned violence as a pillar of patriarchy. Transition houses, self-help and health clinics and rape crisis centers all introduced a persisting initiative in women’s services (see Sexual Assault). Activists in major centers were the first to organize shelters, but smaller towns and cities such as Nelson, BC, and Moncton, New Brunswick, were not far behind. “Take Back the Night” marches began to appear across Canada in the 1970s, On Nov. 1st 2019 Odyssey House joined the Prevention of Family Violence Network Grande Prairie to walk in the Annual “Take Back the Night March” locally.
Painting the odyssey house logo on the wall
A bedroom in the old shelter
Playground in the back yard
Back in 1985 we use to advertise the shelters services in the local newspapers, and in “community connections”. How do people find out about Odyssey House today? Word of mouth? Referals? Etc. One large way is technology, it has given us the ability to be more visible, you can find us on social media and our website or simply by googling shelter near me, the website https://www.sheltersafe.ca/ helps provide you with all shelters available in your province. Our website contains a safety pre-caution redirect or hide page button for those interested in learning about our services but are concerned about a partner finding out or seeing. In fact, smartphones, tablets, apps, and other technologies can actually support empowering and advocating for women who are experiencing violence. However, the alternative is electronic violence such as cyber stalking and its ability to take away a survivor’s sense of safety, even when an individual is staying in shelter technologies can make shelter living complex. So what does apps, smart phones and technology mean for families at Odyssey House? Social Media Safety, for example turning off GPS locators that are built into an app, like snapchat, Facebook etc., that way when a resident is out and about it minimize the risk of their perpetrator locating them.
On Tuesday, December 16th, 1986 The Grande Prairie Women’s Residence Assoication (Odyssey House) had named its new board of directors including; Sharron Nelson, Sandra Spicer, Doreen McDonell, Gibby Hudson, Marilyn Monpetiit, Martia Mayne, Rob Smith, Cathy Smey-Carston, Marg Bowes, Jane Manning and Joanne Berg. We are grateful to all the individuals over the last 40 years who have served on our board of directors. In that same week, just a day later on December 17th, 1986 the week was declared Shelter week, Mayor Dwight Logan signed a Proclamation with Odyssey House Volunteer Joce Monan and resident worker (Today the term is Client Support Worker), Anne Sauder and then Board President Sandra Spicer.
In 1987 the shelter had a small individual library, today Odyssey House has a library that features over 200 books categorized. In 1987 the shelters kitchen was design to sit and feed roughly 10-12 individuals, our present kitchen can feed and sit up to 42 moms & kids.
In 1988 Grande Prairies Canadian Girls in Training presented Odyssey House with a Fisher Price Tape recorder and tapes during CGIT last week. Shown in the image (Left to Right) are CGIT Vice-President Deanna Zutter, residence worker Heather Rousseau, Odyssey House Operations chairman Doreen MacDonell and CGIT President Erin Martens.
Back in 1989 Odyssey House branding and logo was still the outlined shape filled in with black shading to resemble a young woman, holding luggage with her. In present day our logo Symolism has a house over the colorful outline of a mother & child. The Icon represents care, support and safety for women and children escaping violence. Additionally in our visual identity guide the organization has since added the tagline “Equality and Empowerment” to be used on all our general awareness materials.
Odyssey House is always looking for volunteers. Even back in 1990 we recognized the generosity of this great community. To this day, we offer training opportunities to volunteers.
Odyssey House starts the Outreach Program, New Beginnings (now referred to as Community Support). Did you know that Odyssey House offers Outreach services to those that have experienced violence in their lives? A big thanks to the Odyssey House Executive Director at the time, Eileen Langstaff, for advocating for additional support for women after they left the Emergency Shelter and to the Muttart Foundation which supported two years of funding from April 1 1991 to
Odyssey House hires a permanent half-time public education assistant. Prevention means starting early. Through many funding opportunities including City and County FCSS, the Kinsmen and Kinettes Clubs of Grande Prairie and the towns of Beaverlodge, Sexsmith and Hythe, we were able to secure funding in order to hire someone permanently to build a school-aged Family Violence prevention program.
1992, November 19
The then Federal Government recognized one of the ways that violence is perpetuated in our society. We know that mainstream media shapes culture. It is important to stand up to these types of social norms in order to make change. Our PM at the time agreed.
Every November Alberta recognizes Family Violence Prevention Month. We are lucky to have the support of our local politicians which have influence over our communities and inform policy legislation.
March 8th of every year is International Women’s Day. This year Saskatchewan passed The Victims of Domestic Violence Act which allows victims of Domestic Violence to have perpetrated removed from their home with a phone call.
1994, November 9
Students at the Composite Highschool spoke out against violence through an art instalation that was displayed in the Towne Centre Mall. We continue to engage with highschool students in order to work on our prevention advocacy efforts.
Caption - "Jason Burnett, left and Nathan Davis, both students in Composite High School's Commercial Art 22C class kneel in front of the display board they created for Family Violence Week."
1995, December 28
Almost 8000 women have accessed Odyssey House’s services by this point. We can see that rates of domestic violence have continued to sore since then. Follow-up programming and long-term funding is critical to support families that have experienced trauma. Odyssey House was lucky to receive funding’s from The Wild Rose Foundation to keep its Outreach programming going.
Odyssey Hires a new Executive Director, Bev Moylan, who will hold this position for a few years where it would ultimately be taken over by Katherine Sheppard, until 2011.