The bell is tolling for the Warm Zone - the only drop-in centre in Abbotsford serving the community's most marginalized women.
A three-year pilot project formally funded by the federal government, the Warm Zone is a safe space for women who are homeless, working in the sex trade, battling illness, abuse, poverty, drug addiction or mental health issues.
The Women's Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, which runs the program, has been battling to find new funding from either the provincial or federal government since the original funding dried up in March.
But the WRSFV, which has been draining its savings to keep the Warm Zone open, has run out of time and money.
"I get sick to my stomach to think about what some of our women will do. They have no where else to go," said outreach worker Erica Thomson.
"We have some proposals in for [gaming funds] but we don't have bridge funding, and we have to give notice to the landlord on Sept. 1."
The Warm Zone, across the street from Jubilee Park in downtown Abbotsford, provides street-entrenched women with basic necessities such as showers, laundry facilities, clothing and personal care items, Internet, a telephone and hot meals.
It also provides access to counsellors, medical and legal services, HIV prevention, clean needles and help in obtaining emergency and stable housing.
Warm Zone co-ordinator Michele Giordano said it's ironic the provincial government has spent upwards of $7 million on the Missing Women inquiry but cannot find money for programs and services that actually protect vulnerable women on the front lines.
Giordano and other members of the Warm Zone participated in making recommendations at the inquiry, at their own expense, to share procedures and policies that ensure vulnerable women are safeguarded better.
"The inquiry involved a lot of finger wagging. A lot of money has been spent looking for the answers," Girodano said.
"But we're about solutions, and we're about to close our doors."
The federal government had previously provided $93,000 a year to the Warm Zone.
But the centre needs secure funding of $225,000 a year to meet the needs of at-risk women in the community, said Giordano.
Since its doors opened, the Warm Zone has served more than 3,000 women. It's not uncommon that 500-plus clients, an average of 10 being new patrons, walk through the door each month.
Dorothy Henneveld, WRSFV's executive director, said all three levels of government are directing the Warm Zone to seek funding from another branch of government, from churches or the private sector.
"I'm feeling disheartened and concerned," said Henneveld.
"We absolutely need government funding to continue. The work we do at the Warm Zone is intimately connected to health and protecting marginalized women."
However, the Ministry of Health, headed by Abbotsford MLA Mike de Jong, has not made any commitments to fund the Warm Zone's services or alternatives, said Henneveld.
The Justice Ministry, which is heading the Missing Women Inquiry, has also not responded to Warm Zone appeals.
De Jong is on vacation until September and was not available for comment on the Warm Zone's looming closure.
No one else from the Ministry of Health was available for comment.
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast has said federal funding is for seed money for a program, which then must seek other sources from government or the private sector.
However, with reluctance of the province to step up, the Warm Zone doesn't feel it's ethical or sustainable to tap church and community support over and over, said Giordano.
"We don't feel it's right or a practical solution because it's not long-term stable funding," she said, adding the clients have the right as citizens to critical services.
"It's not the churches' position to fund health care and protective services for women. "We don't ask the churches to fund my visit to the doctor."
- The Warm Zone is holding a community support and networking event at Jubilee Park on Thursday, Aug. 30 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. All members of the public are welcome to come and take part.
For more information on the Warm Zone visit wrsfv.ca.