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.
I thought I’d be able to fix it. I thought I’d be able to get back on track, I just need to save. But things kept coming up like my daughter desperately needed new glasses and I had to take my son into the dentist. On top of that the car needed work. None of these we’re options. They all needed to be done. The pile just kept getting higher. Left to manage it all on my own after my husband left.
At this point I was at the worst of my addiction, using alcohol and drugs to fall asleep at night and especially when my boyfriend’s friends came over. One night I was too exhausted to cook, so I went on my boyfriend’s laptop to order food and saw a nude picture of myself in an email thread to 18 different email addresses, with a price attached.
These were not my boyfriend’s friends; he didn’t know these men!
When Charlene and her children connected with us, we were devastated that we didn’t have a unit for them right away. We always hope to have a solution. We offered them shelter units at our King Street location but that meant taking them out of their home community. Luckily for them, they had friends and family that could help for a short while. Their story is one we hear of so often – a single mom having no place else to go. I know it was a scary time for them. But Charlene’s determination to build a better life for her and her children fills us all with pride. She has been working so hard to ensure they will have a life where they will thrive.
I felt my 9-month unborn daughter kick inside my stomach while we were moving boxes from our home. Instead of being excited, I wanted to throw up. This was no longer an exciting time in my family’s lives where we were bringing a new baby into this world. In this world, our reality, my family was evicted from our 2-bedroom townhouse when the housing market skyrocketed, and we could no longer afford our rent. We’ve never had a lot, but we always had enough.
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”.
Rachel and her two children came to our shelter after fleeing an abusive relationship. She had finally found the courage to escape her husband. Unfortunately, even once she was brought to safety, Rachel could not help but have negative intrusive thoughts. She started believing that she should have put up with the abuse since her … Continue reading Rachel
I loved my life. My kids, my husband, my home. We were just scraping by each month, but I knew that we had it better than a lot of other families in St. Catharines. And, I had my family – that was enough. Then, I lost my job. At $16 an hour, it was the … Continue reading Samantha
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
My name is Amy and this is my story… A safe house in Niagara had only been open for a few weeks when I first heard about it. A house – a home – specifically for women like me… a survivor of human trafficking. I wanted to see what it was all about, but I … Continue reading Amy
I cried. I cried tears of joy and relief almost two months ago when I first entered my unit with my two boys and my West Niagara Affordable Housing worker. I walked in and the tears started falling down my face. I was overwhelmed – still am. This is a huge difference from the shelter … Continue reading Penelope
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
My name is Laura and I am a survivor of human trafficking. I have been at the YW’s Safer House for 5 months and I am feeling better than I have in years. After months of processing my trauma, I finally feel ready for my next step – to reclaim my life. There is just … Continue reading Laura and Jade – The Successful Duo!
When Naomi first stepped foot in the King St. emergency shelter, she was full of hope. For too long, she’d be filled with uncertainty. How was she going to survive without shelter? How was she going to find an affordable apartment in Niagara? When she found refuge at the YW, she could feel the page … Continue reading Naomi
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
My name is Ruby. I am 27 years old. I came to the YW because I have been going through some tough times. Not long ago, everything in my life was going well. I was safe and comfortable in my home – in my life. But at the same time that I got laid off … Continue reading Ruby
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
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
When things started to feel serious with her partner a few years ago, Amanda moved to Niagara to be with him. It was hard to leave her family and her home, but this is what her partner wanted and she wanted to make him happy. This was the natural next step to her relationship, Amanda … Continue reading Amanda
When I walked through the doors of the YW Safer House for the first time, it felt like my life was just beginning. Hi, my name is Leah, and I’m a survivor of human trafficking. It’s a crazy feeling to look back on that day all those months ago. It feels like only yesterday, but … Continue reading Leah’s Story
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
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