$15 mil women’s shel­ter com­ing soon

24,000 sq-ft North York fa­cil­ity will open in the spring

Bayview Post - - News -

Come next sum­mer, the North York Women’s Shel­ter (NYWS) will have a new 24,000-square­foot emer­gency shel­ter and com­mu­nity ser­vices hub, thanks to fund­ing from both the prov­ince and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It will be lo­cated at 940 Shep­pard Ave. W

“This was a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity,” said Vicky Sage, pro­gram man­ager at the NYWS. “There were seven rooms for 30 beds, which is not a dig­ni­fied and re­spect­ful way to sup­port women and chil­dren leav­ing vi­o­lence.”

The NYWS has helped over 11,000 women and chil­dren since 1984. What was once a 3,000square-foot build­ing with just enough ameni­ties to sup­port the peo­ple com­ing through will soon be­come a $12 mil­lion fa­cil­ity, spread across two build­ings.

The first build­ing will be an emer­gency shel­ter and res­i­dence, with 17 bed­rooms, each with a pri­vate bath­room and a ca­pac­ity for 40 women and chil­dren. The sec­ond build­ing is the com­mu­nity ser­vices hub.

“We have the ad­van­tage be­cause we ap­plied for fund­ing to tear down and build some­thing new, not ren­o­vat­ing, we were able to start with a blank slate and draw on 30 years of re­search,” said Neila Poscente, the cam­paign di­rec­tor at NYWS, “and un­der­stand­ing of what is re­quired in women and chil­dren ex­pe­ri­enc­ing vi­o­lence, what do they need.”

As a re­sult of these decades of re­search and work­ing with women, NYWS was able to de­ter­mine that those needs in­cluded a com­mu­nity ser­vices hub, with a health clinic that spe­cial­izes in phys­i­cal and men­tal trauma that will be one of many ser­vices of­fered at the new fa­cil­ity.

“We have a model that will sup­port women in find­ing hous­ing, em­ploy­ment, fi­nan­cial sup­port, ed­u­ca­tion, any­thing they need to help tran­si­tion back into the com­mu­nity,” said Sage. NYWS also has le­gal coun­selling to help women nav­i­gate their way through the le­gal sys­tem.

Ac­cord­ing to data from the City of Toronto, the av­er­age nightly num­ber of peo­ple served in Toronto’s emer­gency shel­ter sys­tem has in­creased from 4,095 peo­ple in 2016 to 5,657 in Jan­uary 2018. Women’s shel­ter oc­cu­pancy rates across the city are rou­tinely at 99 per cent ca­pac­ity; fam­ily shel­ters are at max­i­mum ca­pac­ity. And it is es­ti­mated that ev­ery night 185 women and their 238 chil­dren are sleep­ing in women’s shel­ters. Not only are these shel­ters at ca­pac­ity, shel­ters turn down about 20 women and 15 chil­dren ev­ery night. SHEP­PARD AVE. W.

“The one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been work­ing here is that 60 per cent of the peo­ple liv­ing in women’s shel­ters are ac­tu­ally chil­dren,” said Poscente. “When [women] de­cide to leave a vi­o­lent home, they take their chil­dren, too, be­cause the chil­dren are not safe ei­ther.”

With that in mind, the NYWS will have a child youth worker of­fer­ing pro­gram­ming and sup­port for chil­dren of all ages, ken­nels for pets and play­rooms. An­other unique fea­ture is in­ter­con­nected bed­rooms, as well as larger units for fam­i­lies.

“What we are see­ing more and more of is larger fam­i­lies,” said Poscente. “Like women, maybe with their mother, and a large group of chil­dren com­ing as a fam­ily to es­cape vi­o­lence.”

Ac­ces­si­bil­ity was also a point of em­pha­sis when de­sign­ing the new shel­ter. Ac­cord­ing to the com­mu­nity needs as­sess­ment con­ducted by the NYWS, women with dis­abil­i­ties are two times more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence abuse.

That is why 40 per cent of the rooms are fully ac­ces­si­ble, and the rest of the cen­tre, along with all of its other fa­cil­i­ties, is de­signed to be fully ac­ces­si­ble as well.

“What we find here in Toronto, be­cause of the hous­ing sit­u­a­tion, it is a chal­lenge to find af­ford­able hous­ing for women to move out of the shel­ter,” said Poscente. “So the stays are longer, six to nine months, and we would never put a woman out on the street.”

Con­struc­tion on the new women’s shel­ter is pro­jected to be com­plete by spring of 2019.

“What I’ve learned is that 60 per cent of the peo­ple liv­ing in women’s shel­ters are ac­tu­ally chil­dren.”

Vicky Sage, pro­gram man­ager at the North York Women’s Shel­ter, at the site of a new 24,000-square-foot shel­ter

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