'This is home': New space, more services a dream come true for W.E. Trans director

Windsor's W.E. Trans Support is moving into a new building with significantly more space, which executive director Jayce Carver says will ultimately allow for more clients and more services.

Space will feature a hall of fame wall honouring LGBTQ leaders who helped pave the way for more inclusivity

Jamie Defoe, president of the W.E. Trans Support board of directors, left, and Jayce Carver, executive director of W.E. Trans Support, right, stand in front of the organization's new location on Tecumseh Road E. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"This is a labour of love."

Windsor's W.E. Trans Support is moving into a new building with significantly more space, which executive director Jayce Carver says will ultimately allow for more clients and more services. 

"When I walk into this space I know we can do the work that we need to do here," she said.

"When you walk into this space, it has a perfect mixture of professional and personal. And I really, really believe this is home."

For the last year and a half, the centre has operated out of an office on Wyandotte Street W., with two offices and a single community room. 

On Oct. 1, the organization will move into a new site at 1435 Tecumseh Rd. E. with a main floor and a basement area, which will allow for a main hub room, a community room, a food bank, office spaces, a staff room and more. 

Big dreams for the space

The space allows Carver to think big. 

Jayce Carver became emotional as she talked about the significance of creating an LGBT hall of fame wall at the new W.E. Trans Support site. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC )

"We're sitting in a dream," she said, explaining that the new space will become an LGBTQ community health and wellness centre.

She said her organization, which receives no government funding, is on its way to formalizing its charitable status, meaning W.E. Trans Support will soon be eligible for even more grants, which will hopefully help them bring in a nurse practitioner a few days a week, expand counselling services and hire more staff.

There will eventually be an accessible washroom, and there's even hope for creating a laundry space for those who can't afford a laundromat.

The new building will also feature a back entrance with a buzzer, for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable walking through the front door. There are cameras already installed in the building's public spaces for security. 

A space to grow

Jamie Defoe, president of the W.E. Trans board of directors, says it's "so overwhelming" to think how quickly the community has outgrown its first centre. 

Jamie Defoe says it's exciting to consider the opportunity for growth that the new space allows. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Defoe pointed out that the organization doesn't necessarily need as much space as they're getting with the new building, but she says, "that's exactly the point."

The new space will allow them to grow.

"We just want to have a very good area to allow the people that do what they do best to come in and do it for our community," Defoe said.

Though the current space was a great place to start, Carver explained there was a push to find a new location. 

Through consultations, the organization learned that some members of the community didn't necessarily feel safe accessing the space downtown.

Carver said there have been some issues in the core, including a break-in at the centre.

Honouring those who paved the way

A major feature of the new building, Carver says, will be a hall of fame honouring leaders of the LGBT community in Windsor-Essex.

"It's going to be the heart of the building," she said.

"So much work has gone in by people who I look up to, that are real big leaders in the LGBT community. And so we wanted to honour those people by creating an LGBTQ hall of fame specific to Windsor-Essex and to really thank those individuals who had come before us, for making the way for us to live as inclusively in society as we currently do," she said. 

"And for paving the way for organizations like mine to exist, to move forward and to then empower the lives of those who are still maybe marginalized in our community."

She said the organization is looking for members of the community who know the region's LGBT history to reach out, as well as to make sure the stories of these leaders are told properly.

This will be the new 'hub' for the centre where reception will be. The building is still in the process of being renovated before it opens to the public. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The space still needs some work, but will be operating on Oct. 1 with the supports and services currently offered as a drop-in centre, as W.E. Trans Support continues to work toward expanding its services.

"When I look around this space and I think about the lives that came before us, and all those who have done that advocacy work up until now and continue to do it in their day-to-day lives, I think this is what you all deserve," Carver said.

"This is the kind of legacy that deserves to be here for our youth."