Renovation work is set to begin on a home-like safe haven for crime victims going through the court process named for Candace Derksen.

Derksen was found dead in 1984 at age 13, weeks after disappearing after being seen walking home from school.

A man once accused in her death, Mark Edward Grant, was initially found guilty of second degree murder in 2011, but that conviction was overturned, and Grant was acquitted during a second trial in 2017.

Candace’s mother, Wilma Derksen, has been referred to as the “founding visionary” of Candace House, the charity behind the home for victims, to be located at 183 Kennedy Street.

On Tuesday the organization announced plans to renovate the home, as well as plans for providing services for victims.

At the announcement, Derksen said her experience dealing first with the “trauma of murder” and then the court process has given her insight into the needs of victims.

She said the court process was terrifying, at first, “Because I knew what kind of a big, intimidating animal the criminal justice system was,” and she had her sister park a van nearby during preliminary hearings to provide herself with the kind of safe haven she hopes Candace House can provide.

“I knew I needed a place when I was vulnerable,” she said.

Derksen said like other victims, she needed resources, answers, rehabilitation to help “move past the word victimization” and vindication for her daughter, which she feels they received, in spite of the outcome.

“We didn’t get the answers we thought, and then realized, the answer and conclusions aren’t always as important as a healthy, invigorating, supportive, open information process, which we had.”

“So I can say now, with even more affirmation, and, and I’m convinced — we really need a good Candace House.”

Derksen referred to Candace House as a prototype, and that the location is ideal for a victim-centred safe haven.

“Criminal justice system is offender-focused, and it needs to be. Restorative justice is also offender-focused, and it needs to be,” she said, adding that restorative justice be more victim-friendly, and that “we need a place that is totally victim-focused, victim-centred, so that we can come here and ask the silly questions, and cry those silly tears.”

Renovations will get underway Thursday, and Candace House aims to complete renovations in three and a half months. The organization also plans to offer seminars and education for survivors, referrals to resources, and support services.