In the past, the community of Powell River dealt with women who were leaving an abusive relationship by providing a Safehouse. This was a network of volunteer families in the community who would take a woman in need for up to four days. The network of Safehouses was successful, however, it did not meet the needs of the women. Some of the major limitations were; women did not receive any counseling, information, education on how to expand their choices, and many women refused to stay in a Safehouse because they felt they were imposing on the Safehouse family. Recognizing in 1991 that this system wasn’t working, a group of women met in the fall at the suggestion of the Ministry of Social Services. The Ministry invited them to write a proposal for operating funds for a transition house in Powell River for the 1993-1994 fiscal year. A group of women organized themselves and formed the non-profit society still known today at the Powell River & Region Transition House Society. This group volunteered their time and energy to explore the best alternatives to start such a service. They submitted a proposal in April of 1992 to the Canada Mortgage of Housing (CMHC) for capital funding to build a house. Some conditions were raised, and after viewing some other alternatives they decided to go with another option.
This option included the involvement of the B.C. Housing Management Commission offering to fund up to a 9 bed house. They would manage the house project, the Ministry of Social Services would provide operating funds, and the Society would run the Transition House services. The Society members were primarily interested in providing a service to the community and for this reason, they decided on this option for the town. The house, currently known as Grace House is still in operation today after nearly 25 years. (February 2019 will be the official marker).
So why the name Grace House? Who was the woman whose name we took as a beacon of strength? Grace MacInnis was one of the first Western Canadian women to make politics her life and career. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in July 1905, into a political family, she was educated at the University of Winnipeg, the Sorbonne, and Ottawa Normal School. She was first elected to the B.C. Legislature in 1941, serving from 1941-1945, and to the Federal House of Commons as the NDP M.P. (Vancouver/Kingsway) from 1965-1974. Throughout her career she didn’t miss a single chance to put forward the interests and rights of women. She worked tirelessly for low-income housing and women’s equality, and was possibly the first politician in the history of this country to advocate for ‘Pay for Parenting’ so women would not need to resort to the callous impersonality of welfare. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Persons Award, honorary degrees from six universities, Freeman of the City of Vancouver, and the Canadian Labour Congress award for Outstanding Service to Humanity, Grace MacInnis was, for many women, the living proof that life need not be restricted to “Children and Cooking”.
Grace MacInnis died in July of 1991, just two weeks shy of her 86th birthday. She left all of us women a legacy in her example of courage, integrity, and commitment to social improvement and change. In acknowledgement of her years of dedication to women and children, our agency chose the name “Grace House” for the transition house to celebrate her commitment to their welfare.