Green Haven Shelter for Women officially opened its doors on October 4, 1991,… but its seeds were sown more than a dozen years earlier.
In the late 1970’s, a small group of citizens met to discuss the need for services in Orillia to support women and children experiencing violence and abuse. Barb Green & Marcia Perryman approached the city and received $75 that they added to their own money to rent an apartment for emergency situations. When funding ran out, the hostel ended, but the goals still remained – to promote community awareness of the issues related to violence against women, and to provide an emergency shelter and full support services for abused women and their children. In the late 1980’s an informal group of committed women established the ‘Orillia Women’s Advocacy Group’, and began the enormous task of raising funds and support from the community, and making grant applications to both provincial and federal governments. Public meetings were held, and articles were printed in local newspapers about violence against women and its impact on the family and the community.
The first application for “Project Haven’ capital funding was rejected by the federal government as the group had not yet been incorporated and could not receive charitable status as an advocacy group. OWAG regrouped, and chose the name Green Haven Shelter for Women in honour of Barb Green, for the years of valuable community service and family counselling she provided dating back to the apartment hostel. Orillia’s chapter of the Quota Club provided seed money to support the public awareness campaign and the City of Orillia provided office space in the Sir Samuel Steele building for a nominal fee.
In 1990, Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services funded an administrative position to coordinate the capital project, and many groups and individuals in the area began to send in donations to open a shelter. By September 1990, a house was purchased, architectural drawings completed and rezoning of the location was approved by City Council.