The YWCA has been operating in Niagara for more than 90 years, and the lives we have impacted are too many to count. During the more recent years of our work, we have made a point of encouraging those clients, who are happy to talk about their progress, to share their stories of success with us. We share these stories with you to show you that there is always hope, and we share them with you to thank each and every one of you who chooses to support our work. We could not do what we do without the support of our donors, volunteers, community partners, and advocates.
Thank you kindly to all of our clients, who agreed to share their journeys with you.
Share your story with us! Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
When Beverley came to us eight years ago she was scared, lonely and unsure of what to expect. A friend had suggested she go to a shelter when she and her two kids, 9 and 11, had to leave an unsafe home environment, but a shelter was the last place she wanted to go. “I just imagined a shelter like you see on TV- a big room, full of mattresses on the floor, where you have to cling to your belongings so they don’t get stolen. I didn’t want to go. But I had no choice. It was either go to a shelter or go back to him.” And so she took the first step and walked through the doors of the YW. What Beverley found inside the YW “shelter” was a far cry from what she had imagined. “I was given my own room. I was treated with dignity and was seen as a person. The staff listened and showed me respect.” Beverley was astonished.Click here to read Beverly's story
Quickly Beverley felt safe and through the YW’s Life Skills programming was given the tools she needed to get her life back in order. Through the help of the YW, she was able to find work as a photographer for a local event and started to feel like herself again. After two months of staying at the YW, Beverley was put on the priority list for Affordable Housing but was told she had to wait another three months. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was sure I had overstayed my welcome and was going to be kicked out.” Instead Beverley was welcomed to stay another three months at the YW until she got a place of her own.
On July 1st, Beverley was handed the keys to her new apartment. “For the first time, I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. I had my independence back.”
Today, Beverley is an active member of the community as one of the photographers for snapd St. Catharines and snapd Niagara Falls. Looking back, the YW represents more than a shelter to Beverley, the YW represents hope.
Strength comes in all shapes and sizes. In this case, a petite, shy and soft spoken Mother of four named Beth. Growing up in Grimsby, Beth, a Personal Support Worker, always dreamed of one day becoming a nurse. But, sometimes life gets in the way; and Beth found herself stuck in an abusive relationship with four children, and a pile of student debt to top it off. Inner strength helped her to leave; but finding – and keeping – housing for a family of five in Grimsby is not easy. Grimsby has the highest costs of living in the Niagara Region, and soon enough, Beth $1400 rent cheques were falling further and further behind. She found herself faced with yet another hurdle to climb: eviction.Click here to read Beth's story
Now unemployed – unable to find work because daycare options were at odds with her PSW working hours – coupled with a diabetes diagnosis and a sick daughter, Beth had 60 days to find a home she could afford. Moving into a shelter would mean taking her children away from their schools, and as a single mother, her only support systems – including her own mother – were in all Grimsby. Thankfully, Beth’s Mother discovered WNAH YWCA’s Off Site Transitional Housing program, where Beth was introduced to Cheryl, her support worker. Cheryl was always there to listen and offer gentle support.
Finally with an affordable place to call home and Cheryl’s support, Beth was able to start to take control of her life. She signed up for not one, but three budgeting workshops to work on her student debt. Another to teach her to make weekly meal plans. For the kids, there was the community garden where they each planted their own vegetable. All summer long they tended their garden and watched the veggies grow.
At the end of the year, they picked what they had and made a big salad as a reward. Beth was so proud when her youngest daughter remarked that they had “made this salad out of nothing”.
Today, Beth feels like herself again. She has gone back to school, and is now eligible to apply to a nursing program. She has a steady job, can afford a baby sitter so that she can go out with her friends, and even recently got engaged! Every day she teaches her children the lessons she has learned throughout her time in the Off Site Transitional Housing Program. One day a week, she draws one of her children’s names from a hat. Their treat? To pick what they want for supper and learn what it cost and how it’s made. They learn that ice cream is a treat when there’s room in the budget, and that ribs, while delicious, are just simply too expensive to make.
Before coming to WNAH YWCA Beth felt like all she was, was a Mother. Today, “I feel self-sufficient and independent, I feel like Beth”.
Cynthia became a participant of the YWCA Off-Site Transitional Housing Program in September 2016. Prior to coming into the program, Cynthia was evicted from the house she had spent the last 10 years in because the landlord needed it for another family. This was devastating for Cynthia. She was unable to find work because of … Continue reading Cynthia
My letter to you. Losing my home was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through. It happened so fast and yet when I look back, it’s as though it’s replaying in slow motion. I had a good life –a good family, with two amazing children – a boy and a … Continue reading Cindy
Meet Heather In My Own Words If I had to choose one word to describe myself, it would be relentless. I have fought so hard to rebuild my life. While I have overcome common challenges we all face; my truly life-altering experience was being kidnapped in my mid 20’s. It was and still is a nightmare … Continue reading Heather
Like many of the women who walk through our doors, when Alecia called the YW she needed help and she needed help fast. She was facing an impossible decision: Stay with her abusive partner or be forced into homelessness for herself her and two young boys. When, over the phone, a Women’s Advocate said they … Continue reading Alecia
She has old eyes. That’s the first thing that struck me when I first met Kim. Her life’s path is discernible in the shadows that are always there, even when she’s smiling. When Kim first came to the YW shelter she had already experienced more in her life than anyone should. Kim was a victim … Continue reading Kim
Meet Beth Strength comes in all shapes and sizes. In this case, a shy and soft spoken Mother of two named Beth. Growing up in Grimsby, Beth, a Personal Support Worker, always dreamed of one day becoming a nurse. But, sometimes life gets in the way; and Beth found herself stuck in an abusive relationship with … Continue reading Beth
In 2018/2019, the YW partnered with local image maker Michal Pasco to portay what the faces of homelessness truly look like. Too often, we still picture the unshaven man pushing a shopping cart down the road. While this, what we call “visible” homelessness, is certainly part of the picture, research shows that the vast majority … Continue reading YW FACES
Before she came to the YW’s shelter, Victoria felt vulnerable and powerless. Trapped in an abusive home, Victoria knew she had to make a choice – stay and continue to experience abuse or leave and face an unknown future with no money and no home… She had nowhere to go. Both choices were impossibly terrifying … Continue reading Victoria’s Journey
Meet Natalie and Jaime It was November 30th. I remember thinking “How could this be happening to us, and just before Christmas?” It was too much to bear. You always think that bad things only happen to other people… We were just your average family; with a loving husband, four beautiful children, and a good … Continue reading Natalie and Jaime
Meet Margaret Every once in a while our shelter is graced with a woman who leaves her special mark on those who are fortunate to know her. Such was the experience of Case Manager Sami Jo with her client Margaret. Margaret was the victim of an alcoholic and abusive husband who had turned to alcoholism … Continue reading Margaret
This success story is a long-winded one. It is the story of a woman named Jasmine. Jasmine has been in and out of the homeless emergency shelters for quite some time. She struggled with unmanaged mental health issues that continuously inhibited her from reaching her full potential. Jasmine would have her good days, but darkness … Continue reading Jasmine
Meet Ellie When Ellie and her four children left the Sudan to seek refuge in Canada, they had to leave everything behind – their home, their family, their culture. By the time they came to our Niagara Falls Emergency Shelter, they had already given up hope. Unable to accommodate Ellie and her family in Niagara … Continue reading Ellie
When Jenny and her 21-year-old daughter, Kathy, came into the YWCA Niagara Falls Shelter, they were both feeling completely defeated and with little hope. Jenny had recently lost her job as a PSW due to health concerns and struggling with depression. Meanwhile, Kathy was struggling with suicidal thoughts and self-confidence issues. When Jenny and Kathy … Continue reading Jenny and Kathy: A return to stability
Pam had been having a rough time for years when she finally built up the courage to put herself first. She let her ex take the kids while she searched for housing, which wasn’t easy. Pam found shelter with another agency but it didn’t provide her with all of the supports she needed or the … Continue reading Pam
She keeps busy, doesn’t look up much. Her hands are cleaning up the dishes, her feet carry her back and forth between the big kitchen counter and the sink. I can only see it when she pauses to look at me – a sparkle in her eye. It is barely noticable, but it is there. … Continue reading Dede
All Jane ever wanted was to offer her two children the best life she could. When she decided to return to school for a full time program in social services, the bills quickly started piling up and she fell behind in her rent payments. Her friends tried to support her but she knew that couch … Continue reading Jane
When asked about their dreams for the future, tears come to Heather’s eyes. “Our dream is to have our own home, to have stability. When you have a home, it takes away so much other stress. It would mean everything.” “The programs offered by the YWCA West Niagara Affordable Housing program have taught me a lot about myself,” says Heather as … Continue reading Heather & Chad
“I’m 43 years old. I want life,” she pauses before adding, “I choose life.” Tammy used to be angry – mad at the world, at life, at God. She wanted someone to blame: blame them for all of the abuse she has suffered, someone to blame for what the drugs have done to her. “You … Continue reading Tammy
Meet Lily What would you do if, after enduring 16 years in an unhappy marriage, you discovered your husband was already married? For Lillian, it was the catalyst into a new life, but one fraught with its own hardships. With only a part-time income as a bus driver to draw from, Lily moved from one temporary … Continue reading Lily
Yasmine’s journey with the YW started in December 2015. At the time, she was staying with her mother. While she was grateful for the shelter, her relationship with her mother had never been the best and living with her was becoming more and more challenging every day. Yasmine, who was 19 years old at the time, had lived … Continue reading Yasmine
Meet Hannah Too often as people age, they can begin to slip through the cracks of society. Hannah first came to the YWCA through our Emergency Shelter in 2010 when, as a senior, she found herself without a support system, facing addiction challenges and not knowing where to turn for help. Slowly, with the … Continue reading Hannah
At first, she was surfing couches One of the things we try to raise awareness of at the YW is what we call “hidden homelessness”. It is estimated that around 80% of homelessness is hidden. What that means is that while a small percentage of homeless folks can be seen in the streets and parks, … Continue reading Breanna
When Paola first came to Canada from her home in Central America, it was to find a safer life for herself and for her son. Equipped with a university degree, she was sure that finding employment would be easy but it soon became obvious that the language barrier was going to be almost impossible to … Continue reading Paola
“I always thought that somehow things would work themselves out,” explains Trina, a client in our YWCA West Niagara Affordable Housing (YW WNAH) program. For years, Trina stayed at home with her children, not realizing that her life was more and more controlled by her husband, that she was trapped in a life that she … Continue reading Trina