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Fort Smith society loses shelter and crisis line

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Smith (July 05/04) - The mass resignation of Tawow Society directors has thrown Sutherland House, the community's women's shelter and crisis line, into turmoil.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Dana Raisah is the CEO of the Fort Smith Health and Social Services Authority. - NNSL File Photo

Fort Smith Health and Social Services Authority terminated its agreement with Tawow to administer Sutherland House after four of five Tawow board members resigned without explanation.

"Effectively, we didn't think there was a board," said Dana Raisah, the health authority's chief executive officer.

The authority paid $300,000 a year to the Tawow Society to run Sutherland House.

The authority laid off 10 workers at the shelter, but Raisah said casual workers will be hired for Sutherland House and the crisis line.

The long-term operation of the services will be put out to tender, he said.

Bev Heron, the society's acting executive director until she lost her job on June 30, said the layoffs have placed a lot of stress on women in the shelter.

"It's terrible," Heron said.

"Fort Smith is a small community. Where do 10 women go to find jobs that fast?" she asked.

If the women want to work at Sutherland House, they have to apply to the health authority, but will receive no priority, she said.

Raisah said the authority wants to improve the programs and "a contract allows more control."

The move does not reflect on the services offered by the Tawow Society, he said.

"They certainly did what they could do under their circumstances," Raisah said.

Marilyn Napier, the Tawow Society's interim vice-president, is calling for community support to get the authority's decision reversed.

"We want to continue to do what we do best," Napier said.

Napier said Tawow Society members will decide at a July 28 general meeting whether to bid for the contract to provide the services.

An interim board for the society was put in place June 19 after the four resignations on June 3 left one remaining member.

Nikita Taziuk, former society vice-president, said she couldn't comment on the resignations because all board members signed confidentiality agreements.