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“We are not merely a band aid solution.
We are a place of Hope, Opportunity and Promise”
-Charlene Catchpole, Executive Director
North York Women’s Shelter has been a place of safety and support for over 30 years. When families enter our shelter, they are given more than a safe home; they are given Hope. Our programs and services are designed to empower women to live a life free of violence. We know that when a woman has a renewed sense of self-esteem and self-worth she breaks the cycle of violence — for herself and for her children. Violence Against Women is not a women’s problem, it is not a family’s problem, it’s an epidemic created within our society and it is the responsibility of the entire community to break the silence and stop the violence. As former United Nation’s Secretary General Kofi Anan stated “the systemic discrimination and inequality women continue to face, in law and in their everyday lives, happens around the world. It occurs in every region, country, and culture, regardless of income, class, race or ethnicity”. We ask you to join us in being a voice for these families, to stand with them and let them know they are not alone. We ask you to help us provide Hope.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_position=”last”][vc_column][vc_accordion el_position=”first last”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Letter from Chair of the Board of Directors, North York Women’s Shelter”][vc_column_text el_position=”first last”]
For the nearly six years, I have been honored to sit on the Board of Directors at North York Women’s Shelter. I have had the privilege of working with a group of women dedicated to eradicating violence in our communities. During my time on the Board we have shared many great successes: the launch of our housing support program, the launch of our transitional support program; and the opening of our new head office to name a few. As we have grown as an organization, the need for our services has grown as well. From 231 crisis calls received in 2007, to 428 in 2011. From 137 women we were unable to serve in 2007 to 351 in 2011. 351 women who needed us; 351 women we were unable to help. I think about who these women are; our mothers; our sisters and our friends. Every woman has the right to live a life free of violence. We have the responsibility to end violence in our communities. Our childrens’ future depends on how we act now. If we commit to saying no to violence, and if we support our community shelters, we can create a safer society for our children. I hope you will join us as we expand our services and work towards our vision of a community characterized by gender equality where women and their children are empowered and safe.
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North York Women’s Shelter has provided Hope for women and children since 1984. As the shelter’s Director, I have the great privilege of seeing women and children move from a place of hopelessness and despair to a place of empowerment and strength. When a woman makes the brave decision to leave her abusive home and come to our shelter, we strive to provide her with every support she needs. Increasingly, we have been unable to provide her with the safe, affordable housing she and her children deserve. We have seen North York change from a community of single family dwellings to condo buildings on every corner; we have watched the population expand dramatically, and with this, affordable housing has dwindled. This lack of housing has had a deep strain on our services. Women and children stay with us longer, and the number of families we have been able to serve has decreased steadily every year – from 80 individuals served in 2008, to 60 in 2012. Building transitional housing would allow financial independence for women ready to move out of our shelter. It would allow us to serve more families in need and give women and children fleeing violence the hope of a safe home to call their own. I ask you to join us as we work together to create a safer community; a community where women and children are empowered to pursue their dreams; a community where families no longer have to live in a constant state of fear. Be the life line for our women and children and help us break the cycle of violence that affects us all.
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“When some of the women were sharing their story, it gave me strength.
I loved having the chance to share my experience from the past and learn how to heal and move forward.”
– Shelter resident
At North York Women’s Shelter, we know the cure for poverty is Women. When you empower women, they can raise their family out of poverty and stop the cycle of abuse. We strive to do everything within our power to help women looking for a way out of violent situations. We offer them a safe home, counselling, legal assistance, child care support, immigration advice and job training. We work with a variety of community supporters to ensure we can offer assistance to each family’s unique needs. Our programming is holistic and aimed at healing mind, body and spirit.
- 24-Hour Crisis Line: our phone lines are open to anyone seeking assistance. We offer counselling, support, information and immediate safety planning. Every year we receive more and more crisis calls from 231 in 2008, to 428 in 2011.
- Counselling and Safety Planning: individual counselling available 24 hours a day and safety planning created to identify and decrease the risks for violence.
- Housing Assistance: a dedicated Housing Worker available to assist clients navigating through the challenging process of obtaining housing.
- Transitional Support: supporting our community and assisting clients as they transition to life beyond the shelter.
- Children’s Programming: A variety of programming aimed at empowering children to express themselves, heal and have the carefree childhood they deserve.
- Art Therapy: Empowering our clients and providing an outlet to heal through art.
- Moms and Tots Parenting Group: Healing the bond between mother and child.
- Legal Workshops: Providing clients with the legal knowledge they need to make informed decisions.
These are just a few of the programs and services we offer at North York Women’s Shelter. Each program is created with the input of our clients and focuses on their individual needs. We work tirelessly to ensure we are delivering programming that benefits families at every stage of their healing. For our staff this is far more than a job, this is their way of giving back to their community. There is not a better feeling than knowing you have had a positive impact on someone’s life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”The Impact of Violence”][vc_column_text el_position=”first last”]
“Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights.
Gender-based violence not only violates human rights, but also hampers productivity, reduces human capital and undermines economic growth.”
On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence. At North York Women’s Shelter, we know there are many more families in need of safety and support. We know this because every year we turn more than 300 families away, simply because we do not have enough space. It breaks our hearts when we answer one of the more than 400 crisis calls and have to tell a woman we are full. We know that when we turn a family away, it could mean the difference between life and death. In Ontario alone, from 2002 to 2007, 212 women were murdered by their intimate partners. This data comes from the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.
“Worldwide, it has been estimated that violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.”
–The 1993 World Bank Development Report
Violence Against Women cripples the entire family. A recent study by the Canadian Women’s Organization, reports that children see or hear 40-80% of domestic violence assaults. Each year in Canada, an estimated 360,000 children witness or experience family violence. Violence has a long lasting impact on children. Contrary to popular belief, children are not resilient and do not ‘bounce back’ without proper support and counselling. Long-term exposure to these traumatic events can affect a child’s brain development and ability to learn, and can lead to a wide range of behavioural and emotional issues such as anxiety, aggression, bullying, phobias, and insomnia. Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as compared to children from non-violent homes. According to the RCMP, a child who witnesses spousal violence is experiencing a form of child abuse, since research shows that “witnessing family violence is as harmful as experiencing it directly.” At North York Women’s Shelter, our children’s support staff are trained to work with children who have experienced violence. We work with children to empower them to make healthy choices for their future. As staff, we are fortunate to be able to see a child’s growth every day. To watch children come into the shelter, feeling vulnerable and afraid and to see them grow into happy, carefree and confident children is the greatest gift for their mothers. Moms often express that the main reason they left their violent partner and came to our shelter is because they want to protect their children. They wish for nothing more than to model a better life and see their children happy.
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“Family shelters − intended as a crisis resource of last resort − are instead functioning as transitional and supportive housing for families for whom dedicated housing programs are needed. This critique often has been made about shelters for women and families fleeing violence.”
-Centre for Urban and Community Studies – U of T
‘Better Off in a Shelter?’ July 2008
We are proud to serve the community and are fortunate to have access to resources that are only available in the City of Toronto. We have access to translators through The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and along with the 19 languages spoken by our staff; we ensure language is never a barrier to service. Our staff are able to receive training on virtually any subject, from Transgendered training through the 519 Community Centre to Anti-Racist Anti-Oppression training through Toronto Hostels Training Centre. We see the benefits of living and working in the most diverse city in the world. We also know that women who are living under the poverty line face major barriers in this city, the number one barrier being the lack of safe, affordable housing. The average cost of housing in Toronto has risen dramatically, with the average rental price for a one bedroom apartment being over $1,300 a month.
As our city’s population grows, so does the demand for social services and affordable housing. According to a City of Toronto report on poverty, in 2006, the GTA included 5.6 million residents. Since 1991, the GTA regions outside the City of Toronto have been the fastest growing regions in North America with population growth of 56%. With this growth comes an increase in the number of low income citizens. Women accounted for 54% of the 605,000 low income persons in Toronto in 2006, and 66% of low income seniors. Nearly one-third of Toronto children were living with low income in 2006. Children were the worst off of all age groups, with before tax low income rates 1.5 times higher than that of low income persons overall. In 2006, Toronto was home to 131,000 low income children under 15 years of age.
Housing has always been a barrier for low income families and the rate of low income families is on the rise in North York. Our community, according to a report by the United Way of Greater Toronto: Poverty by Postal Code: The Geography of Neighborhood Poverty, was documented as being a growing low income community. Among neighborhoods with highest rates of low income families, four were in East York, one was in Etobicoke, ten were in Scarborough, five were in the former City of Toronto, three were in York and eleven were in North York.
The effect of poverty and Toronto’s housing crisis is seen everyday at North York Women’s Shelter. With an average length of stay of almost a year, we know families who are ready to move forward cannot do so for one key reason: lack of housing. Even with a priority wait list for families living in Violence Against Women shelters, families feel the pressure of waiting for housing. When a woman finally gets housing, we celebrate, cheers are heard throughout the house, hugs are exchanged, and tears of joy are shed. Her housing signifies more than a family being able to live on their own; it means they finally have their independence. For many women, this independence comes at a cost. They have had the security of the shelter and the support of our counsellors. Women worry about what it will mean to truly be on their own. The most vulnerable time for a woman living with abuse is when she makes the brave decision to leave her abuser and again when she is embarking on her journey out of the shelter. Living without the supportive environment of the shelter is stressful and we have chosen to support women through this period by developing our Transitional Support Services.
Unfortunately, government funding for transitional support is limited. Of all the emergency Violence Against Women shelters in the GTA, most have had to fundraise in order to create transitional support programs.
The statistics are grim and the odds are stacked against families. We know how we can help. We have a comprehensive plan that will free up bed space in our emergency shelter at a faster rate, shortening our wait times and allowing us to serve more families. We have a plan to expand our services, reaching out to our community and providing support to all families in need. We have a plan for housing and transitional support and we have a plan to expand our services within our emergency shelter, giving families every resource they need to heal. We have a plan, we need your help.
Our Capital Campaign HOPE BLOOMS! is launched with the knowledge that when we give women Hope, we save lives. As our economic climate has changed, women have had to sacrifice and have watched as their opportunities have dwindled. At North York Women’s Shelter we have found it increasingly difficult to tell women there are other options as they have become far and few between. Building transitional stage housing will give women the opportunities they thought were gone; the opportunity to be supported while living independently and most importantly safely. HOPE BLOOMS! will only be possible through the support and generosity of people who believe all women and children deserve to live in safety, deserve respect and deserve Hope. By supporting HOPE BLOOMS! you support families who have nowhere else to turn and remind them that, as they rebuild their lives, there is a community of individuals behind them.
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Our first phase has already begun! We have relocated our Head Office to an offsite location where we now offer transitional support services to the community. We host a variety of workshops including immigration assistance, job support, housing and legal support and counselling groups. With our new space being accessible to the community, we can now help women who are perhaps not ready to leave their abusive partner, but would like to know their options. We can offer guidance and information to family members worried about their loved ones. We’ve already taken great advantage of our large program space, hosting other shelters for joint training sessions.
Our new head office has a large warehouse space, allowing us to receive generous in kind donations we were not able to receive in the past due to the lack of storage space at our shelter. From skids of pasta, to crates baby items, we’ve been able to store these generous donations and share them with shelters across the GTA.
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At North York Women’s Shelter, our visitors and residents always comment on how inviting and ‘homey’ our shelter is. We strive to create an environment that supports healing. However, space in our shelter has always been an issue. By moving our administrative offices off site to our new Head Office, we have been able to create a youth space, allowing us to accommodate the increasing number of families that enter our shelter with teenage children. These children often bear the brunt of the violence within the family and we are pleased to now offer them a space that is their own, where they can use computers for their homework and where we can provide additional programming specifically geared to their needs. This space offers youth their own ‘club house’ filled with generous donations from the community; laptops, a big screen TV, and video game systems. This is a space designed just for them.
At North York Women’s Shelter, we are proud to provide service to families from every cultural and religious background and strive to create a space where they feel comfortable to practice their spiritual or cultural beliefs. Our reconfiguration has allowed for a much-requested spiritual space; a quiet room where women can meditate, pray, smudge and feel at peace.
The availability of a head office has granted us a larger counselling office and also allows us to now host our staff meeting in our head office. Prior to our move, all staff meetings took place in our only general program space, creating a great inconvenience for our residents.
Moving administrative staff to our head office has also afforded us a Children’s Program office. This new office gives children and mothers a confidential place to talk to our children’s support staff. Our children’s staff have never had their own space to meet with children; they shared our front office, where our crisis line is answered, where women meet counsellors; essentially it is the shelter’s ‘hub’ and it is busy!
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When families are ready to leave the shelter, they worry about what it will be like to be on their own, without our support.
“77% of women they interviewed in their shelters said they would access shelter resources and assistance after they left the emergency shelter…if it was available to them.”
-YWCA 2006 study
By providing transitional stage housing, we give families the opportunity to begin a life on their own, free of violence, while offering them support where and when they require it. We would offer units with rent geared to income for up to a one year stay, providing families with safe and affordable housing while women search for employment, go back to school, secure child care and permanent housing. This will reduce the average length of stay in our emergency shelter and will bridge the gap between life in the shelter and life on their own.
North York Women’s Shelter has been in operation since 1984. At our inception, our residents’ average length of stay was four to six weeks. Once that time had passed, we were able to secure safe affordable housing in the City of Toronto for our residents. Until four years ago, the average length of stay had grown to three to four months. This wasn’t ideal but it was manageable. Today, our residents’ average length of stay is nine months to a year. Our shelter was not designed to be a place of long-term residency. It was designed to provide women and their children who were fleeing violent homes a place of immediate safety and support. We have outgrown this space and need to secure a larger space where we could offer emergency shelter and transitional support. We need to relocate, re-build and change with the City of Toronto and North York. As our City grows, we must grow and continue to meet the needs of the community we serve.
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Construction of New Facility – $3,600,000
$1,700,000 – to purchase land in North York (based on estimates from realtors and contractors in our community).
$5,000,000 – for construction costs based on a 20,000 sq. ft. space. This estimate includes costs of all appliances, plumbing and wiring.
With an estimate sale of $3,600,000 for our current property which is located in a very desirable area, this $5,000,000 cost would be offset with the sale of our property, reducing the cost to $1,400,000.
$500,000 – for furnishings and fixtures for the new building
Increase in Operating Costs Over 2 Years- $900,000
With the expansion of our services, North York Women’s Shelter will incorporate the additional costs of utilities, maintenance, programming and supplies over a two year period until additional core funding is secured. We will ensure this new facility will be in our North York community, serving women and children in need for as long as the need is there. Although we hope our services will no longer be required in the future, we must be sustainable.
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“Victims of spousal violence often suffer repeat victimizations. The 2004 GSS found that more than half (54%) of individuals experiencing spousal violence in a current or previous relationship, reported suffering more than one incidence of violence (Mihorean 2005). A number of shelter residents will likely have used the facilities on one or more previous occasions. However, re-admissions were notably less common among second stage housing residents (16%).”
-Canada’s shelters for abused women, 2005/2006
Every day, our women struggle. They struggle with the decision they have made to leave their abuser. They struggle with heartbreak, with poverty, with the impact the abuse has had on their children. Mothers feel guilt, frustration and helplessness. When they come to North York Women’s Shelter, they are in despair. They have experienced years of being undervalued, unsupported, lonely and scared. We empower women to take steps towards healing. It’s an uphill battle and there are many road blocks along the way, however our plan will do more than provide these families with short term housing options and transitional support…it will provide Hope.
Your support is key to breaking the cycle of violence.
By supporting our campaign, you can:
- Build a safer community
- Ensure that vital assistance and programming is available to families in your community
- Create economic growth in your community
- Leave a lasting legacy
- Build your reputation or brand your corporation through your commitment to your community
- Enhance your employee team through volunteer groups
Our plan will do more than provide outreach to our community. Our plan will save lives. When women are given transitional support, they are less likely to return to their abuser or enter another abusive relationship. Our plan is not a band aid solution to domestic violence. It is an opportunity to educate, support and stop the cycle of violence for future generations. Help us break the cycle and give Hope to a family in need. It will be the greatest gift you’ve ever given.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Contact Us”][vc_column_text el_position=”first last”]
For more information on how you can provide Hope, contact:
416.638.7335 Ext. 232
Manager of Development and Communications
416.638.7335 Ext. 233