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Future bright for vital Manitoba queer resource

After 20 years, the Rainbow Resource Centre gets a change of address

OUT WITH THE OLD. On the left is the old location of Winnipeg's Rainbow Resource Centre. On the right, the new location, as of Oct 1. Credit: Sean Robert photos

From the confined space of her shared office, the executive director of Manitoba’s Rainbow Resource Centre (RRC), Shelly Smith, is thrilled to talk about the organization’s plan to move Oct 1.

“I’ve been sharing an office with bookkeeping, admin, membership library volunteers, summer students and numerous other staff — for the past three-and-a-half years,” says Smith. With eight employees sharing three offices, groups that have outgrown their meeting space and a library overflowing with books, there is no question the Centre is ready for a change of address.

Since 1987, the RRC has been located at the corner of Osborne and Donald Sts, just minutes from Winnipeg’s downtown. Tracing its roots back to the formation of a student group at the University of Manitoba, the Centre has been a vital resource to the province’s queer community since the early 1970s. Expanding its services over time to meet a growing demand for support, the RRC now provides a full-time counsellor and offers peer support through phone and email. Relocating a few blocks north-east to 170 Scott St, Shelly says the new location will solve many of the problems the Centre has come up against in the past.

Nestled on the second floor of an apartment complex, the current location is old, difficult to navigate and not accessible for wheelchair users. Measuring at just over 3,000 square feet, the new address is twice the size of the Osborne location.

“The new space will better enable us to run our current programs and services in a more efficient and effective manner,” says Shelly. It will also allow the Centre to add or expand programs, provide larger meeting space and make room to properly store the 3,500 books it houses. “Without this move, we would have to scale back and even decline some potential funding opportunities around program creation and expansion.”

Growing not only physically in size, the Centre will also be much more visible to the public once it has moved. When asked whether she thought anonymity was still a concern for visitors to the Centre, Shelly says yes and no. “Although I think it’s likely lessened over time, I do think that safety and anonymity are still very much a concern for some folks in our community… That said, I believe it essential that we take the lead and continue to move forward, which means demonstrating that we are proud of who we are and that there is no reason for us to continue to hide.”

To celebrate, an open house is planned for October to introduce the new space.

“The RRC is a true grassroots organization,” says Shelly, “and this move is symbolic of the passion, perseverance, hard work and dedication of our community.”