Sr. Marion Garneau: A Founder of Kindred House
In the late ‘80s to early ‘90s in Edmonton, there were hundreds of children, young women, men, and transgender people exploited through the street sex trade, primarily in the city’s core communities. The Edmonton Social Planning Council secured a federal grant for a pilot project to ask individuals what would help them. Their response? A place to come in from the cold or heat, to be accepted unconditionally, to experience community, and to access resources.
Sr. Marion Garneau, Pastor Faith Brace (Inner City Pastoral Ministry), and I volunteered to be “community bridges” in the early stages of what came to be known as Kindred House. Marion and Faith worked on-site with the women while I served on the committees. She sounded out an idea with the women who came: would you like to form a women’s council that would guide the development of this safe space? They said yes, and Marion began the gentle facilitation to assist the women in this new experience. They met weekly, they spoke, they listened, they brought forward ideas, and they set boundaries for what could happen in this safe space and what had to stay outside.
When funding for the pilot project concluded, Marion kept the flame burning, with support from Faith and me. Marion volunteered every day to keep the doors open, if only for several hours each day. Some on the women’s council volunteered for shifts along with Marion, Faith, and me. We got donations to pay the rent. At the end of six months, we knew we needed to ask for more help from the larger community. We turned to the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, already providing on-site nursing support. Sherry McKibben was the Executive Director at the time and she responded, “Yes! Let’s make this work!”
Marion, Faith, and I kept writing proposals and being on-site at Kindred House for several more years while the BMHC worked to stabilize funding. Twenty-seven years later, Kindred House continues to provide that safe and welcoming space. Marion’s legacy of compassion-in-action lives on.
Kate is the Executive Director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE).