Grand Re-Opening of Aunt Leah’s House
Newly rebuilt Aunt Leah’s House welcomes women and their babies once again
Aunt Leah’s Foundation announced at the beginning of 2023, the completion of its most recent social purpose housing project, the rebuilding of the original Aunt Leah’s House. Operated by Aunt Leah’s Place, since the 1980s, Aunt Leah’s House has been a safe haven for young moms (often in foster care themselves) and their babies to ensure families remain together and not separated by the child welfare system.
In 2020, pandemic restrictions and protocols limited the number of moms that could be accommodated in an aging house, and repairs and maintenance costs increased to the point where the original house was no longer operable. Aunt Leah’s Foundation undertook the rebuilding of the original house. The project was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund, and the Government of British Columbia’s Community Gaming Grants Capital Projects program, as well as a number of generous private donors.
A former foster parent herself, Gale Stewart, Founder of Aunt Leah’s and B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship Award recipient, saw first-hand the importance of “beginnings” as it applied to the bonding of mom & baby and how she could create a home where these young moms could enjoy the comfort of a lovely space, good food, and intimate times with their newborns. The new purpose-built home has four bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a large training kitchen, office space, and a second-stage self-contained suite that a mom can graduate into. “Together we will continue to provide comfortable beginnings for vulnerable moms and babies, helping to reunite and keep families together,“ said Gale Stewart.
Now, in 2023, Aunt Leah’s House is beginning to feel like home once again. Participants in Aunt Leah’s Thresholds program have started moving into the house and the legacy of the home that started it all, continues to grow.
Supported by Aunt Leah’s Thresholds Program, moms live in a safe, caring home environment where they can learn how to care for their babies with the guidance of staff and family support workers. “For 35 years this house has been dedicated to keeping families together,” said Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place. “During this time more than 400 families have called Aunt Leah’s house home and we are honoured to continue to serve our community in this way.”
“Despite the challenges of fundraising and executing a project during pandemic times, it was the critical support of our partners, government funders, and donors who believed in its importance that made it possible,” said Jacqueline Dupuis, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Foundation.