The doors to Matheson's women's shelter are closing.
Tranquility House is a 10-bed shelter in the community east of Timmins.
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services spokesperson Kristen Tedesco said they fund the Canadian Mental Health Association of Cochrane Temiskaming (CMHA) to deliver the services.
"The CMHA-CT decided to terminate their service contract with the ministry for Violence Against Women programs, as these services are not part of their core business," she wrote in an email.
"This agency’s Violence Against Women services have also been operating at below 50 per cent capacity rate for several years."
The CMHA's contract with the ministry ends April 12.
Tedesco said admissions to the shelter ended March 11 and referrals are being sent to four area shelters.
Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof said there are two key items to ensure.
“The first issue is to make sure that the funding that was in the package for Tranquility House, that the government is going to keep that funding in place, that it’s just not going to disappear somewhere else into the system,” he said.
If they can ensure the funding is going to stay, he said hopefully they can help find another service provider.
As people find out about the closure, Vanthof said his office has fielded lots of calls and emails from people who have used the shelter, or have family members who have used it.
The next closest shelters are in Timmins — where there’s the Timmins and Area Women in Crisis and Centre passerelle pour femmes — and Haileybury.
“They are going to try and provide alternative services, but the fact remains that there are going to be less beds. And the fact remains that the people in crisis, women in crisis and their families, are going to have to travel farther and that makes an even bigger barrier,” said Vanthof.
“Often, anecdotally, for the people who’ve contacted me — if you’re a woman fleeing an abusive situation, often you don’t have access to a car or to a bus. So the farther you make these services, the farther away they are, the more difficult they are to access.”
He noted Matheson serves a wide, rural and remote area with farming families and people working in mines moving in.
“For a lot of people, travelling an hour if you’re in crisis or escaping with your kids, it can be a life and death situation,” he said.
Women currently receiving Tranquility House services are being referred to appropriate services, and Tedesco said the decision won't put any women at risk.
"There are sufficient services in the area to meet the needs of women requiring these supports," she wrote.
"We are committed to the safety of abused women and their children by providing safe shelter, crisis intervention and crisis counselling, outreach and transition housing support services so they can live free of violence."
The best way to help, according to Vanthof, is to contact Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues.