Skip to content

Jessica Martel Foundation opens Eileen’s Place in Morinville

Second-stage shelter to help domestic violence victims
EILEEN’S PLACE — St. Albert philanthropist Eileen LaBonte (in white) cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Eileen’s Place second-stage home in Morinville. The shelter is an extension of the Jessie’s House domestic violence shelter. Also shown here are Morinville–St. Albert MLA Dale Nally (left), Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma, and Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation co-founder Lynne Rosychuk. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

A St. Albert philanthropist has helped open a new home in Morinville to help victims of domestic violence.

About 25 people were in Morinville April 16 for the opening of Eileen’s Place — a new second-stage housing project run by the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation. The foundation operates Jessie’s House, which is the main domestic violence shelter for the St. Albert/Sturgeon County region.

Jessie’s House is an emergency shelter designed to host people fleeing abuse for up to 30 days, said foundation executive director Marla Poelzer. Not everyone is ready to move out by then; some have never worked before, while others face long waits for affordable housing. Without additional support in the form of second-stage housing (which Jessie's House residents typically cannot find outside of Edmonton), these people are at high risk of going back to their abusive partners, which could get them killed.

“Eileen’s Place will help fill this gap,” Poelzer said.

Eileen’s Place is a duplex in Morinville that consists of three fully furnished three-bedroom rental apartments, Poelzer said. It will give up to three families a safe place to live in for up to two years, during which they can learn job skills and find affordable housing. Clients will pay below-market rents and be free to work, send their kids to school, and live in the community.

“Our goal is for when people do leave here, they are fully independent.”

Domestic violence is on the rise in Alberta, with calls for support to shelters up 25 per cent last year compared to the year previous, the foundation reports. Homelessness in the Edmonton region has jumped 75 per cent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and domestic violence is one of the lead causes of homelessness for women.

Foundation co-founder Lynne Rosychuk, whose daughter Jessica Martel struggled to find space in a domestic violence shelter prior to her death, said opening Eileen’s Place was a dream come true for her.

“These places save lives and also give [people] the best opportunity to finally break free from a life filled with fear and abuse.”

Thanks, Eileen

Cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony was St. Albert philanthropist and long-time Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation supporter Eileen LaBonte, namesake of Eileen’s Place. LaBonte supplied the roughly $700,000 needed to buy the Eileen’s Place building.

“There’s such a need,” she said, when asked about her support, and she has always liked supporting those who cannot help themselves.

“This isn’t the only community that needs a shelter. We need more shelters right across the province.”

LaBonte said she was at first reluctant to have this place named after her, as she preferred to stay out of the spotlight, but was convinced to go along with it by her children. She said the house itself was very open and bright, and should give people a sense of pride.

Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma called Eileen’s Place an essential tool with which to break the cycle of abuse.

“It’s rebuilding lives,” he said, and helping people rejoin their communities.

Poelzer said the first tenants of Eileen’s Place will move in on May 1.

Questions on Eileen’s Place should go to the foundation at 780-939-2870.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks