The North End Family Centre (NEFC) is moving, and in turn, tripling its size.
NEFC founder and executive director Kyle Mason announced on May 21 that the community gathering place is planning a move to 1344 Main St., a half-block from its current location at 1322 Main.
"The short answer to why we’re moving is we have reached the capacity of our current facilities, and we’ve even stretched it a little beyond that," Mason said. "We have 1,200 visits a month, but we operate in less than a 1,000 square-feet. It is very cramped. Life is very busy, very full around here and we’ve made a very conscious effort to use every nook and cranny to really maximize our space.
"Our numbers used to climb from day one when we opened (October, 2009), climbing higher and higher to 1200 visits a month, which we reached about a year and a half ago, and then they capped. We haven’t seen it go higher, because our facilities now limit the amount of people that can access our service."
At its proposed 1344 Main St. location, NEFC will have access to almost 3,000 square-feet of space between the main floor, second floor and basement. Mason said more space will allow NEFC to add a kitchen, a learning centre, a multi-purpose room and a "free store" where community members can pick up clothes and hygiene products. The new location will also include a quiet room to complement NEFC’s community living room.
"Our community living room is a busy, full space with a lot of conversation, but sometimes people express to one of our team members something difficult, maybe somebody in their family passed away or maybe they lost their job — more of a quiet, personal conversation they’d like to have but not in a group setting," Mason said.
"So we’ll have a quiet room where our team members can pop in and have that conversation in private."
The plans are in place, but there’s still plenty to do before NEFC can move. Mason said the building at 1344 Main needs to be completely gutted and rebuilt to suit NEFC’s needs.
Renovations are set to start in early July and projected to be completed by late September, with the new building opening in October, NEFC’s fifth anniversary.
Mason said the full project budget is estimated at $125,000, with the majority of that going to renovations. He said NEFC is seeking funding from the city and the province, but also requires donations from the general public.
Mason believes NEFC is worth investing in, saying "When you strengthen the North End, you strengthen Winnipeg."
"When you build community and help people get out of poverty, it fights crime," Mason said. "When we have less crime in the city, our taxes can go down, we don’t need as many cops and maybe we don’t need the helicopter flying over our heads every night.
"Also, when people get out of poverty, their health improves and they’re not in the hospital. When you build community and fight poverty, there are benefits for everybody. It’s maybe not immediate, but in the long-term it really does make a huge difference."
To donate to NEFC’s project, go to www.northendfamilycentre.org or mail a cheque to North End Family Centre, 1322 Main Street, Winnipeg, MB, R2W 3T5.