Theresa Hilbig is breathing a little easier these days. She is Executive Director of Visitation House, a drop-in centre for women established by the Regina Archdiocese in 2000. In the 17 years she has occupied the position she has seen material donations, everything from bedding to more recently a kitchen and dining room set, take up more and more space in the small rooms that make up Visitation House. “It was at the point where I had to clear a path from our open space to my office.”
The new space is adjacent to the space Visitation House has been occupying and now they have the entire main floor of the building. The additional space will be used to house donated goods which includes children toys, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, various cosmetic products, paper products and many other goods women might use for themselves or in their homes. The Knights of Columbus council of Resurrection Parish offered to build shelves in the additional space to store and bring order to the room and open the floor space to other uses. “Until we ran out of room we used to have some fitness equipment available (a treadmill can be seen hiding among boxes and goods in one of the other smaller rooms.) “With this space I may offer Zumba exercise classes and maybe do some counselling if the need is there.”
Visitation house is located on the eastern edge of the city’s downtown core and has occupied a large corner room and two smaller rooms on the main floor of an old two-storey brick building. Hilbig was not sure of the square footage of the gathering room where women come to visit, but it is large enough to accommodate a large table with an assortment of chairs around it, a couple of worn but comfortable looking chesterfields and a couple of upholstered arm chairs. One end of the room serves as a kitchen behind an almost room-wide counter.
Hilbig emphasizes, Visitation House is not a soup kitchen for women but it does provide lunches depending on what comes in as donations.“We are a drop-in centre for women who come to read the paper, look for work or places to live, use the phone, but mostly they come to talk, visit with others, tell their stories,” she says. She also will advise them of services they might access with the Government of Saskatchewan or the City of Regina. She averages 25-35 women a day who come to visit. Most are regulars but each day usually sees one or two newcomers. A few come with babies or toddlers, she said.
Visitation House exists on donations. And volunteers. “We enjoy great support from churches, CWL, individuals, and Knights of Columbus councils,” she said. The Archdiocese supports the centre with funds from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal and “donations help pay our expenses,” said Hilbig.