Category Archives: Shelter & Poverty

Daisy

Daisy’s journey began when she entered the Court Street Transitional Housing Program, after what she describes as a long walk of feeling alone and faced with many hardships. She felt completely supported from the day she moved into the YW’s supported housing. “I finally was where I needed to be,” explains Daisy. Having her Transitional Housing Worker just down the stairs from her to access when she needed support, was a relief and gave her a feeling she had not felt in a long time -that of safety.

Skills Development

While Daisy stayed with us at our Court Street building, she loved participating in our Skills Development workshops. At a time of her life when she thought of herself as someone who had lost all of her skills, it meant the world to be in a group that was all about celebrating your own strengths and beauty and all that you have overcome.

Moving on to Off-Site

Daisy successfully completed the Court Street Transitional Housing program, and then transitioned into the Off-Site Transitional Housing Program. During her time in the Off-Site program, she felt empowered by her Support Worker, who never judged, and felt she was met where she was at. Her Support Worker was able to focus on her needs and help her reach her goals. This month, Daisy completed the transitional housing program and has moved on to a place that she can now call her home.

Aftercare

Our support does not end there. One of the things that often make all of the difference for the women and families we serve, is that we are still there for them even when they have left our programs. For Daisy, knowing that the support is still there for her if and when she needs it, gives her the strength and the trust she needs to continue on on her path.

Daisy’s message for you?

“I’m just one of many individuals in the Niagara Region who are in need of this type of Transitional Housing opportunity and supports. Please keep in mind when you pass someone in public that you just never know their story. The YWCA is an organization that goes above and beyond for the individuals they support, and I would like to encourage the community to take the time to get involved or to learn more about what the YWCA has to offer the community.” For Daisy, the YW is the place where she felt empowered and supported every step of the way.

Experiencing Discomfort: No Fixed Address 2018

The discomfort hit almost as soon as I lay my head down on my fluffy pillow. In a tent, with a small yoga type mattress, I could still feel every single bump in the ground. The roots digging into my bones made me continually adjust myself into a position that seemed tolerable. Tossing and turning most of the night, hearing sounds in the distance, I couldn’t help but think about the homeless people sleeping on a park bench. How exposed they must feel. How uncomfortable, terrified, and lonely they must feel. Shuffling to try to avoid those thoughts, I fell into a rough sleep. Well into the night, the cold crept upon me. Wrapping myself deeper into my warm comforter, putting my hood up, I fell into a light sleep.

The sun came up quickly and early. Groggy, I woke up so sore. Almost every part of me was aching. I struggled to pull myself together and get out of the tent. My goodness, I was exhausted. It felt like I didn’t even sleep. And yet, there are so many people in our community that sleep on park benches, in cars, on floors night after night. They’re waking up feeling awful, going to work, and going back “home” to any of those positions and doing it all over again. Can you imagine?

The thing that kept me up in the morning was knowing that in a couple of hours, I’d take a long hot shower. Id’ be able to brush my teeth and clean my face in my sink without any inconveniences. That evening I’d be able to crawl into my comfortable queen-sized bed in nice sheets and a clean comforter. The night prior’s discomforts would be all but a distant memory unlike the reality it is for so many people. And let me tell you from my experience that a tent is much more spacious than a car and it allows you to be in a better position. So I really had no reason to even have a slight negative thought about it.

One night was uncomfortable. Being sore for the entire day was awful. Every single person that participated in the 24 hours sleep in your car-a-thon was grateful to go back to the comfort of their home. But so many people in our community don’t have that luxury. They don’t have a home or any comfort.

That’s why we take 24 hours out of our lives each year to help the YW help our homeless. Because what’s one day compared to all of the people who do it for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.

What is your boardroom used for?

Is it a multipurpose room set as a meeting space during the day and a bedroom to multiple people at night? A child’s safe place with their mom? Is it someone’s temporary home?

Here at the YWCA Niagara Region, ours is regularly just that.

I will never forget that one Friday morning I came into work at the YWCA Niagara Region. It was a little earlier than usual. I was on my way to the Fund Development office, walking past the boardroom when I noticed the lights were on. That was rare for that early in the morning. So, naturally, I glanced into the room.

What did I see?

Not one, not two, but three beds. In our boardroom! Unbelievable. The purpose of a boardroom is for meetings, not for someone to sleep at night. The fact that there were three was even more alarming. That meant three people were crammed into a room with all of the tables and chairs for a meeting along with the three beds. Three people!

The YWCA Niagara Region St. Catharines Emergency shelter already holds at least twenty women and their children every night. To think that more people needing a safe place to lay their heads are being put on pull out couches and cots was extremely upsetting. I then found out that there were two more cots in our Kate Leonard Room (another boardroom across the hall). Five people in total were sleeping in what was intended to be a meeting room. This was in decent weather. Can you imagine what the demand is like during terrible weather? I teared up a bit as my heart went out to these women and children.

How would I feel if I were tossed into a boardroom with two other people or with my little kids? How would you feel? Vulnerable, to say the least. Grateful, of course and happy to be safe; but sad, scared, and uncomfortable. I can’t grasp exactly how they must feel. Unless you’re in the position, how could you? The thought of small children and their mothers curling up in a room that I personally use to plan events and gain community support is upsetting. One that’s used to make decisions to help clients, not house them. It’s not a bedroom, there is no closet to put away clients’ belongings.

After taking a minute to let it sink in that this was a daily reality, I stepped outside with my hand to my lips in utter shock. The advocate on duty apologized that she hadn’t had time to clean up the beds. Well no kidding, there were at least 25 women and their children who most likely needed her attention in the morning. So, no, she didn’t have time to clean up all of the meeting rooms. This is what we have to do to ensure that Niagara women and children have somewhere they can safely sleep, have a warm meal, and the comfort of a shower, even if they have to be placed in a boardroom with others. At least they have a safe place and a semi-comfortable cot.

            “I was shocked and heartbroken, tearing up. I mean, who wants to sleep in a boardroom? My heart went out to these women and children living in this type of situation!”

The unfortunate thing is the YW as well as all of the other shelters across the region and country have been running overcapacity for quite some time. They’ve been struggling to find the room for women and children in need. In 2017, the YW operated at 110% capacity. Hotels are thrilled when they reach 60% capacity. That’s how high the demand for just a bed is. Not to mention the fact that the demand for meals went up 42% in the last year at the YW, which had us serve a total of 94,691 meals.

I can’t explain my heartbreak. We are trying our best, but the demand is still rising and we are running out of room.

This is why I’m participating in No Fixed Address and supporting the YWCA Niagara Region, and this is why I am passionate about my job.

Because there are women and children, as well as men (in the men’s shelter) who live in impossible situations and deserve better. Who would I be if I didn’t try to make a difference? I certainly would hope for help if I was in the situation, and the hard reality is it can happen to any one of us.

So, what is your boardroom used for?

Help me make a difference and participate in the YW’s No Fixed Address event on June 8th-9th, where we can help end homelessness.

Trina’s Journey – Part 2

Our client Trina found West Niagara Affordable Housing in 2016 and had the courage to initially share her story at our Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event, back in 2017. She was kind enough to return to the event this year to share how her journey has continued.
Telling her story is her way of thanking the team at West Niagara Affordable Housing, but it is also her way of thanking all of you, who supported CNOY, whether it was as a walker, volunteer, donor or sponsor.

I would like to continue to share my story of hope. Hope that helped fuel purpose when I learned about West Niagara Affordable Housing (WNAH). Hope that has assisted in pushing me forward. I remember how sometimes that light gets dim and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. As I shared last year, I was at my most dim when I first approached WNAH.

I had some very unrealistic goals set for myself initially, not realizing just how many changes would occur, how little resources I had locally (no family) and how challenging it would be to break through the metal blocks I had been forced to create to survive. To help myself refocus, I then I began looking at nature, at the four seasons and how each season has a purpose. How without the full season the ground suffers, and it can affect everything that is grown. Or the farmer who is just starting off has high hopes his first year of having a bountiful crop. But in his or her excitement missed tilling the soil, or adding the right nutrients to help boost the soil to provide the bounty at the end of the season. Bounty to nourish families, give back to communities and enable them to be self sufficient. They can either choose to give up or learn and press through for the next year.

Both resonate with me as we all need time, and if we are breaking down and repairing the walls that had kept us “safe”. We also need to replenish, rebuild and renew ourselves to be able to move forward and take those next steps to being whole again. I choose to move forward, dig deeper and hold on. Which has enabled me to be one step closer to my goals of being an Holistic Nutritionist and being able to give back and continue to serve others.

We also need to replenish, rebuild and renew ourselves to be able to move forward and take those next steps to being whole again.

This program has enabled me to start again, while providing a stable and secure environment for my children. It has been a blessing and an answer to my prayer.

I would like to thank Cheryl and Keisha from the WNAH program for providing a service that has helped me and my children start again. I would like to thank the Grimsby Benevolent Fund for their kindness and support in times when unexpected things happen. For anyone looking for an organization to help, I strongly suggest you looking at WNAH. Their services change lives, I am just one of many. Getting back on your feet literally is one step at a time. Once again from the bottom of my heart – Thank You!!!

We are still accepting donations for our Coldest Night of the Year event until the end of March. Your money stays here in West Niagara and supports community members such as Trina here in Beamsville, Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln.

Please consider making a donation at https://cnoy.org/location/west-niagara.

Trina’s Journey – Part 1

Our client Trina had the courage to share her story at our Coldest Night of the Year event in 2017. Telling her story is her way of thanking the team at the YW, but it is also her way of thanking all of you, who support our work.

I would like to speak about hope today. Hope that I found when I learned about the YWCA Niagara Region.

When you are struggling in a bad situation, the one thing you hold onto is hope. However, sometimes that light gets dim.

I was at my most dim when I trusted a friend with what I was going through. She was very kind and took the time to listen. She suggested I contact Cheryl at the YW for help to see if they could assist me.

I was not aware of this program and I was so unsure, but finally reached out. It was through talking with Cheryl that I stopped being afraid and that I dared to take a chance. I am a firm believer in prayer, and God is someone I lean on daily. However, sometimes prayer requires action. After contacting the YW, I could begin acting. Cheryl helped me find housing and connected me with other service providers, counselling suggestions, financial support suggestions. WNAH sat down with me and helped me fill out the necessary forms to become part of their program. I was so overwhelmed and felt totally lost. They were there to reassure me. They took the time to listen, encourage and provide reassurance which was very much needed.

This program has enabled me to start again, continue with my schooling, which will enable me to get back on my feet and continue to provide for my children.

Since I’ve been in the program, they have not only helped me find housing for me and my children, but they also provided access to programs to assist in rebuilding life skills. They take the time to meet with you, assist you with goals, support you with court if needed, and assist you in any way they can. This program has provided so much to so many. This program has enabled me to start again, continue with my schooling, which will enable me to get back on my feet and continue to provide for my children. It has enabled me to rebuild myself in a safe environment, removed some stress, and I just can’t say enough good things about them.

If there is anyone here who needs help, or who knows someone who does, I encourage you to reach out to WNAH. Both Cheryl and Keisha are wonderful to work with and they will help you in any way they can.

I would like to thank Cheryl and Keisha from WNAH for renewing my hope and for providing a service that has helped me and my children start again. For anyone looking for an organization to help, I strongly suggest you look at WNAH. Their services change lives, I am just one of many. From the bottom of my heart – Thank You!!!

We are still accepting donations for our Coldest Night of the Year event until the end of March. Your money stays here in West Niagara and supports community members such as Trina here in Beamsville, Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln.

Please consider making a donation at https://cnoy.org/location/west-niagara.

READ HOW TRINA’S STORY CONTINUES….

The Perfect Gift

We are bombarded by advertisements, displays, salespeople, and online ads of ‘the perfect gift.’

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

Or do you love the hustle and bustle of the season? Worrying what to get and how you’re going to find the time to even get it?

Do you love the sleepless nights filled with dreams of recipes that fail, presents that are returned, and family that doesn’t make it home for the holiday?

Do we lose something, in this commercialized version of Christmas, or do we gain what we wait for all year, to be with our families, months of planning, all over in hours of endless preparations and a few minute meal.

Is this, what Christmas was meant to be? Is this, what Christmas felt like when you were a child? Is it filled with excitement and wonder and magic and awe of the beauty that surrounds you in the lights and the giant trees, and the bigger than life presents that Santa brought for you? Is this, what Christmas still feels like to you, today?

Or can we agree, maybe, that as we’ve grown older, our families bigger, and our hearts maybe a tiny bit smaller, (I mean, how often do you really see the neighbors anyway, they don’t need a gift from you)…can we agree that maybe, as the old saying goes, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Perhaps, the Grinch was on to something.

I’ve always been in awe of the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever your belief may be, Christmas is filled with hope and majestic wonder. Just look into the eyes of a child, or a loved one. I dare you not to smile.

Joy. Laughter. Love. Excitement. Extravagance. Tradition. Closeness. Giving.

Just a few of the words that describe Christmas for me.

But if I’m honest, I’ve lost some of the magic, too.

It’s easy to do. I think that in our fast paced, need it now, have to get the best of the best, world, we forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love. That the true spirit of Christmas is in giving, but not just giving because we have to for the many reasons that we’ve been lead to believe, but giving because it comes from our heart. Giving that means something to us, from deep within us, because it gives us joy.

Stressing over what to get everyone and spending more money than we have does not bring us joy, let’s be real here.

Joy is in the little moments of putting up the tree with our family, baking with the kids, getting that gift off the top of our niece’s or nephew’s Christmas list because we can afford it, and we know how happy they will be playing with that toy, with us. It is in the moments of, regardless of a Christmas tree with presents under it, or food on the table, we are surrounded by people who love us, exactly as we are.

Christmas is a time of togetherness.

This looks different for everyone. This could look like family and friends or neighbors and community. It could look like many presents and a table full of food or no presents and an empty belly. Or any combination of these.

There is one ingredient that can’t be taken away, despite our outside circumstances, and that ingredient is love.

We all have it, and we can all give it. We all want it and we can certainly all use it.

It might take a little humility and vulnerability, I know. It might take biting your tongue, and loving them anyway, despite what they’ve done. It might take a phone call that you’ve not made in a long time or a visit you’ve been dreading all year.

But if we can try to remember, even if just for a moment, that the perfect gift is love. That the reason for the season is hope. For a better tomorrow, for a better me, and a better you. For a better world, one that remembers love.

If we can try to all be gracious givers this holiday season. To only give what we have, with love and joy. To be peaceful and patient, with kindness that comes from a heart filled with love.

Love doesn’t look like what we bring, it looks like showing up for someone. Our families, friends, and perfect strangers.

The things just simply don’t matter when you are surrounded by people you love, or at least like, somewhat. Try to like them a little more this year.

May the true joy of Christmas surround you this holiday season ❤️

There is something that has challenged me these past couple of years. I like to give, to family and friends, but sometimes I look around and I see that my family and friends are quite blessed. So, I look for ways to give outside of the usual presents, sometimes at the expense of gifts for friends and family, and sometimes extra, depending on my own financial circumstance.

I’ve challenged myself, and I’d like to challenge you, as well.

There are many organizations in our region. The YWCA is of course one of them. These organizations need items on an ongoing basis. I know this can look like a lot of work and maybe even complicated, I know it did for me at first. Even overwhelming. But over time I’ve learned a thing or two.

Poverty has many faces in our region. Causes are no longer just national organizations that we click a button on the webpage and donate our annual allotment of donation money, though this is of course a great way to give back. When we look around our cities, we see the faces of people that have come upon hard times. I know that you see them.

But if you’re like me, you might like to know that you’re truly making a difference, and may have no idea who to give to.

Can I challenge you to make it meaningful? To you, and maybe even your family?

We can give to an organization or organizations that mean something to us, whether past or present.

For example, though I’ve never used the services of the YWCA, it has meaning to me because there are many times that I have been in a place where I’ve thought of an emergency shelter as an option. To give back one year, I learned that they have a list of needs on their website and I donated formula and diapers. I had no idea this was an item that was needed. I didn’t think about it simply because I don’t have children.

I was challenged once to put one thing that I didn’t need in a box each day for 30 days. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me to bring a box of items that I loved, but really didn’t need, to a local thrift shop. Thrift shops give back in big and meaningful ways to the community, and the world. They even gave me a gift in return, a punch card with a discount for the next time I shopped there. I craft, thrift stores are gold mines for items to craft with.

When I was in high school, our grade 9 French class decided to give a family Christmas. This meant buying all the gifts and food for the family’s Christmas. There are a few organizations that do this. I will never forget this experience.

There are many people in need of winter items, hats, scarves, mittens, that you can buy at the dollar store, or donate from home, as well as gently used coats and boots. This is a great way to teach kids to give.

I have been blessed to be a part of a motel ministry that provides food, clothing, and support to those living in the many residential motels in our region. I had no idea that many of our motels are no longer for tourists. The people who live there need everything. Stop by, take a look.

Books can be donated to many organizations, if you happen to like to read, and wanted to pick up a few extra for someone else.

And of course, there are the beautiful red kettles, of an organization that works tirelessly to combat many things, but hunger certainly being an important one of them.

The more I learn about what the organizations in our region do on a daily basis, the more inspired I am to give, based on what has direct meaning to me, or what might be an immediate need in our region right now, such as shelter and a warm meal during the cold months.

If you can’t give money, give time, and vice versa. Be creative. There is something that you have that someone else needs, whether it is time, talent, or treasure.

There are people in need all around us.

Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

Healthy Co-Parenting with your Ex

Crystal

Let’s face it folks, times have changed. The traditional family is no longer that traditional. More and more often couples are finding themselves in a position where they no longer want to ‘couple’ but are, regardless, looking ahead at years of obligatory interaction due to their children.

For the past 6 years my ex and I have been called things like: weird, surreal, amazing, and the ‘poster children’ for divorce. As much as I enjoy praise, (come on, who doesn’t?) it also breaks my heart a little that our situation is so uncommon.

I have questioned what it is that makes our relationship one that, while never perfect, has always been equitable and pleasant. Is it because one or both of us are perfectly rational, emotionally mature individuals who should be therapists in our spare time? Uh…nope (shush Dan, I can hear you from here).

What we have found together, though, is a friendship that has grown roots in today, and plans for tomorrow, rather than lingering in yesterday. Here are the lessons we learned along the way, in the hopes that our style of healthy co-parenting becomes the norm rather than the exception.

1) THE KID COMES FIRST

This is the foundation upon which every decision we make is based. It is non-negotiable. This is, unfortunately, also where so many relationships go wrong. Anger and resentment gets in the way, people want to hit back, or score points. Stop it! This is not about you. It doesn’t matter who did what to get you there, the fact is you’re there. Take responsibility for the child you created, and their well-being. What is in their best interest? What kind of life do you want for them?

2) COMMUNICATE (PLEASANTLY)

Whether you are talking to or about your ex, be civil. Do not bad-mouth each other in front of your child. You once loved this person enough to procreate with them. Point out their positives when you can to your children, so they can recognize them as well. Every child starts being told “oh, you have your dad’s nose” or “you’re so your mother’s son”. Don’t let them have a negative association with that half of themselves.

Communicate regularly when possible. Before my ex was able to move closer, we used to meet up at a coffee place every weekend to exchange our son. We spent an hour or so chatting about our weeks and what was going in our son’s life. While you might not be there, consider what small changes you can work towards to make the situation less adversarial.

3) BE A FAMILY

Yep, you heard me. Do stuff together. No, it’s not going to ‘confuse’ your child. It’s going to help them understand that while there is a new living arrangement, being part of a family doesn’t stop. We do birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day, even Halloween. Camping and road trips, while not common, have been done. This is something that I give my ex SO much credit for. Over the years he has always gone out of his way to ensure he is present. On my end, I have always ensured he knew he was welcome in anything we do.

This feeling of family extends though. His parents stay with me when they come over from England. They want to spend time with their Grandson, and I love that! My mother and he have a hilarious relationship that involves shameless flirting. We all come as a package, and if a step-parent comes into the picture, they will absolutely be wrapped in that package.

4) BE THE GROWN UP

SO many aspects of healthy co-parenting fall into this category. Often, when parents split, the relationship shifts from parent/child to grown up/buddy. They don’t need you as a friend. They need you as a guide, a rule-setter, a loving pair of arms, and a safe place to land. Don’t try to use them as a sounding board to vent your venom over the injustice of it all. It is NOT their problem, it’s yours. Call a friend, or a hotline. Open a bottle of wine after you’ve finished ‘adulting’ and have a Facebook rant. By trying to force your child into the role you want them to fill, you are denying them their childhood. Be the grown up they need you to be in this difficult time in their lives.

All of the small choices we’ve made through the years have all fallen into one of these categories. It has made our lives so much more positive, and frankly, so much more enjoyable. Kudos to all of you out there right now who are doing your best, and keeping your integrity in difficult circumstances. I wish you smoother seas ahead.

Just remember, when in doubt, go back to #1.

What Goes On Behind Closed Doors

Everyone knows someone who has been, or is being abused. It may even be yourself. The problem is that nobody likes to talk about such a horrible subject. Everyone wants to believe that it will never happen to them. But the truth is if you were to look around at the people you know, there’s at least one person who is suffering in silence.

Abuse comes in many forms and may be difficult to spot at first glance. The person who is being subjected to abuse will often lie or cover up what is happening to them because they are ashamed or embarrassed.  They often live in fear and believe that they are helpless to do anything to stop the abuse. Sometimes they have been beaten down so badly that they can’t see a way out.

I know a few women who are in unhealthy relationships, but one stands out more clearly than the others.  She is someone I love very much and it kills me to watch her being treated so horribly. To the outsider it seems like she lives a privileged life. She has been married over 30 years to a successful businessman who earns a six-figure income.  They have a beautiful large home on the outskirts of town with a swimming pool and hot tub. They both drive new cars and go on vacation to the Caribbean every winter.  It looks like she’s living the dream.  But, appearances can be deceiving!  She is married to a man who controls every aspect of her life, from the way she cooks to the correct way she’s expected to stack things in the fridge and cupboards.  He decides when and where she can drive her car.  He has driven away every single one of her friends with his rude comments and obnoxious behaviour.  He has worn her down to a shell of her former self.  He undermines her confidence and tells her she isn’t capable of doing anything without his input and permission. He barks orders at her and monitors her every movement.  He talks down to her and degrades her publicly.  He beat her dog every time it did anything he perceived as being disobedient. He has had multiple affairs and she finds evidence of the gifts he buys for other women.  He hides money from her and closed their joint bank account.  He comes and goes as he pleases and never offers an explanation for his whereabouts.   He talks to her like she’s a child and treats her like an object that he owns.

We were both married in the same year to the same kind of man. Except that I left after 10 years of abuse and heartache. I left with nothing but my children and my sanity. It wasn’t always easy but I have never regretted leaving. I’ve put myself through school multiple times, I’ve travelled and experienced so many opportunities that life has to offer.  I wasn’t able to live in a big fancy house but at the end of the day I could come home with my children and lock the door behind me knowing that there was no one there to ridicule and belittle me.  I was free to make choices and learn through my mistakes without someone degrading me.  I didn’t know what life held for me when I left but I knew anything was better than living with someone who enjoyed suffocating the life out of me.

I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to get my friend to understand that she has so much more power than she’s aware of. I’ve tried to explain to her that she holds the cards to her future and that she has more power than she realizes.  She would never be destitute because he would have to give her a very generous settlement, in spite of his underhanded ways.  And yet, she still feels trapped in her golden cage.  It should be illegal for someone to abuse their spouse but until she’s ready to make a move, all I can do is offer her unconditional love and support.

If the day ever comes that she finds the strength to detach herself from this selfish, arrogant, abusive sociopath I will be there to help her pick up the pieces of her life.

Giving Thanks, this Thanksgiving

On a good day, it is easy to express thanks, share that feeling of contentment and be grateful for all you have.

Let’s look at gratitude on a bad day…week….month,  or year.  It’s hard yes, but not impossible.

The Thanksgiving holiday, from an emergency shelter perspective, is something I wish everyone could experience.  Not to be homeless, I do not wish that on anyone.  I am talking about the incredible sense of community that happens at our King Street shelter in October.  The generous spirit of the Niagara community never fails to amaze me.

Local businesses, service clubs and individuals donate food and funds, enabling our top-notch team in the kitchen the ability to prepare the most delicious turkey dinners.  Included are all the trimmings, and a few extras that we consider luxuries in the non-profit world.  All in an effort to make the day one of a celebration of family, community and thankfulness.

People that have never met share what they have – with those in difficult circumstances.

I am honoured to see firsthand how this gesture from the community in their donations, and volunteering of their time, their caring …….fills the women and families at the shelter with gratitude.  You can see it in their faces and feel it in their hearts.  Someone cares, even when things look…well, bad.

To everyone that finds it in their hearts to give of themselves this Thanksgiving – THANK YOU, I am truly grateful  for the hope you provide for the women and families we serve.  Experiencing this every year, I am given the ability to draw on this feeling of connectedness when I am having a bad day.  It also makes me reach out, beyond myself to help raise my community up – and for the ability to that…..I am also grateful.

 

 

 

Out Of The Heat

I am rarely one to complain about the heat, because I absolutely HATE being cold. I mean come winter I am layered in at least three things at all times trying to get hot. That being said, I have found this summer to be particularly HOT and to be honest… long. Maybe that’s because I currently don’t have a/c in my car, my office gets really stuffy and our bedroom has the full brunt of the sun bearing down on it all day making it difficult to cool down at night, even with central air.

Listen to me complaining.

Do you ever wonder what those with nowhere to go do on an insanely hot day? I know a lot of us worry and strive to take care of those in need during the long winter months, but what about those days where the temperatures are sky high, heat alerts are in effect and we are all drooping even in our air conditioned offices, cars and homes?

What happens when you don’t have shelter to hide away from the baking sun and excessive heat?

When you are shooed away from a shaded spot because businesses often want people to move along?

When you are made to feel uncomfortable, unwanted and a burden for asking for a cup of water at the Tim Hortons?

When you don’t own a hat to cover your head, sunscreen to cover your skin.

When you see a blessed water park, but don’t dare go near it for fear someone will call the police on you.

What happens then? Where do you go?

This summer Niagara has seen six excessive heat alerts (though keep in mind most of those alerts last several days or longer). This alert is sent out by the region when the humidex is forecast to rise to 40 or higher, when the humidex is forecast to rise to 38 or higher with a smog alert, and when Environment Canada has issued a humidex warning.

The region recommends that during an excessive heat alert residents should:

  • Plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day
  • Rest frequently in shaded areas
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless fluid is restricted by your physician)
  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car
  • Dress in cool, loose clothing and shade your head with a hat or umbrella
  • Take cool showers or baths until you feel refreshed

This is all well and good for those who have access to those options.

When these alerts are sent out, the YWCA and other shelters such as Southridge and The Salvation Army are mandated to accept anyone seeking shelter. While the YWCA can only accept women and children, we would refer men to our Men’s shelter or those shelters who accept men.

But the sad part is, that they aren’t always accessed.

Often, most of us don’t realize how the effect of a hot day can sneak up on us, never mind those suffering from chronic alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues. Research has shown that addictions can cause our bodies to react differently, causing an increase in dependency and cravings. Add to the fact that on a normal day you are turned away from shelter for a variety of reasons, your gut reaction becomes to stay away instead of being chased away.

This is why you often see those in need around the bus station, malls, Wal-Mart and Tim Hortons. They are some of the few places where they aren’t asked to leave as long as they are keeping to themselves. That sentence was really hard to type.

We all complain about the heat. About our a/c not working properly. About being sticky, sweaty and uncomfortable. We prepare in advance for the summer… stocking up on water and ice cream. Getting the water slides and pools ready. Thinking of the best way to keep the house cool. But so many of us don’t stop to consider how the other half are faring. We walk past the outstretched arm because we are so used to seeing it. We turn our heads to the side and maybe say thanks that we aren’t in the same position.

But maybe next year, while we are stocking up on water, we buy some extra to keep cold and hand out on those super awful days. Or offer some sunscreen or a hat. Check up on someone and say hello if you are concerned. Donate items such as water bottles, sunscreen, hats, bug spray etc. to the shelters to hand out.

We all deserve to be comfortable and safe. We all deserve to be thought of.