Tag Archives: Family Shelter

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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.

Family Lessons Found at No Fixed Address

Lorraine Snihur is the Charity Support Manager of Trade Bank Canada, the largest            multi-directional barter exchange company in the country, helping not-for-profit organizations cut costs effectively.  She is also one of the many dedicated supporters and participants in the YW No Fixed Address event, sitting as the Chair of the Activities & Entertainment committee since 2013. 


Born and raised in Vineland, Lorraine says that helping not-for-profits is not only part of her job, but also a great passion of hers.  She believes that we are all put on this earth for a purpose and reminds her two children about the importance of making a difference in the world around them.  Participating in No Fixed Address is one of the ways that the Snihur family has shown their commitment to making a difference in the community.

I had the opportunity to chat with Lorraine about her family’s ongoing support and participation in No Fixed Address.


YW: What first caught your attention about No Fixed Address in 2013?

LS: This was an event that stood out from the others, although all fundraisers have their draw, NFA seemed to me to be more of an experience, a commitment and a way that we can help make a difference in our community.

YW: Why did you choose to register as a team with your family, rather than as an individual?

LS: Poverty doesn’t only affect adults…my children have seen signs of poverty at their school when a student doesn’t have a lunch or can’t find the money to participate in a class trip.  They understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are and that we all have to work together to make a difference.  If we just turn our heads and look the other way exactly what are we teaching our children?  Poverty is not a choice, it is a massive road block for so many people and families in our community and as part of our community they deserve our respect and our help.

YW: What was your first family experience like at No Fixed Address?  What was it like trying to fit yourself and your children into one car for the night?

LS: The activities held throughout the day really shed some light on what life would be like if we didn’t have the opportunities that we have.  It really opened all of our eyes to the “What if’s”.  Sure, we were able to get out of our vehicle when we wanted, and sure we had food and activities to keep us entertained but this event was different.  NFA2013 065 Part of it was fun for the kids as they were able to sleep in the truck however it wasn’t long before they realized how uncomfortable it really was and how horrible it would be if this was all we had to call our home.  It provided our family the opportunity to openly talk about what life would be like – crammed in in a vehicle with none of the things that we take for granted each and every day.

YW: What are some of the things that you and your children have learned from No Fixed Address?

LS: We have learned that poverty isn’t a word only used to describe the situation in third world countries….it is in our backyard.  We have learned that poverty doesn’t mean that the people affected by it are bums with no jobs and no drive to make a better life…it can happen to anyone at any time…it can be a result of job loss, sickness etc.

YW: How has No Fixed Address changed yours and your family’s perspective on homelessness?

IMG_1005LS: When we see a homeless person now, we are not quick to judge as we have no idea what path their life has taken then to lead them to homelessness.  We have also realized that just because someone seems fine on the outside doesn’t mean that they are not one pay cheque away from losing their home or have to choose between feeding their family and paying for heat.  It has made us become more aware, more grateful and more responsible for what we do have.  It has made us think harder and longer about our time here and how we can make a difference – this was definitely an experience to remember and one that we are grateful for.


Do you and your family want to be a part of No Fixed Address this summer?  Register here and begin your journey of creating change in the community.

My Journey through Motherhood

Twenty-nine years ago I gave birth to a delicate little pixie that had rosebud lips and big blue eyes. She had thick dark hair and was a perfect little porcelain doll.  I was 19 years old ID-10025970and fell in love the moment I laid eyes on her.  Three years later I had my second child, a son.  He was a big boy , weighing 9 pounds 3 ounces, with a dark mohawk and a teardrop indentation above his top lip. Raising children into responsible citizens of society has been the most challenging and rewarding career I’ve ever had.  My children taught me the meaning of unconditional love.  They showed me how to laugh and play and enjoy the simple things in life.  They helped me to understand myself better as I looked at life through the eyes of a child.  They were the one constant thing in my life.  People came and went,  I changed jobs and we moved a lot, but through it all I had the delightful company  of 2 little people who always entertained me.

I loved taking them camping and travelling to new places.  Dinner was always a special time to talk about our day while we had nutritious homemade meals.  We went to the drive-in theatre and for hikes down to the gorge.  We played tourist in the off season and went to the beach all throughout the summer.  We travelled through the United States twice with my mother and stepfather.  We went to Graceland in Tennessee and Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  We visited the Book Depository in  Dallas Texas and stood on the grassy knoll where bystanders watched the assassination of President John Kennedy as he drove by in his motorcade.   We shared many adventures and I’m sure these experiences were far more valuable than anything they could ever read about in a book or on the internet.  They kept journals for their teachers and every day they recounted where they had been and what they had seen.  Their teachers said this form of education was invaluable.

Time passed by so quickly  and before I knew it , they were all grown up.  My daughter got married and had children of her own.  My son moved to Calgary for better employment and is making his own way in this world.  My daughter followed me into healthcare and my son is a Corporal in the Reserves of the Army. My only wish for my children is that they are happy with whatever they do in life.  I’ve tried to give them a better life than I had and the tools to survive in this world.  I’ve tried to teach them how to live an honourable life, through example.

This was the first time in almost 30 years that I won’t be with my children for Mother’s Day.  My daughter and her husband have taken my grandbabies to Cuba for a vacation.  And my son is too far away too drop in for a visit now.  It’s given me a lot of time to think about my life and I can honestly say that being a mother has been the most fulfilling role of my life. I feel like I have completed a very important chapter in my life and I look forward to whatever the future brings.  But nothing will ever be as intense or as gratifying as having the privilege of bringing these precious angels into the world and molding them into good people.  I feel so lucky to have watched them grow and change into independent human beings.

I hope that the memories and love of their children made this past Mother’s Day a happy one for many mothers.   I hope  that those have lost their mother through death are comforted by joyful memories.  I hope that women who are separated from their children will find solace in knowing that a child’s love is unconditional and that there’s always hope for a better future.  I want all mothers to know that as long as we do our best our children have a better chance at a good life.  Life isn’t always easy and there are no guarantees, but taking pride in motherhood makes for a better society as a whole.mother walking with child

Images courtesy manostphoto/Freedigitalphotos.net and Gagilas photos on Foter 


Families the YW Has Served

Part of my job is to listen. I listen to people who tell me their stories. I think it is important to occasionally share these stories so that we don’t see families who live in our shelter as statistics but instead as humans.

One family we helped consisted of a woman that had one young daughter still at home and was also raising two of her grandchildren. This woman had been in Ontario about 20 years and had only lived at two different residences. Her family lived in their last home for seven years. Her home had gone through a few different owners but the last owner wanted to live in the house so the woman was evicted. She had nowhere to go. She came to the YW Family shelter and actively searched for permanent housing on a daily basis. All she wanted was a home for her children, grandchildren, and herself. She does not enjoy moving and wanted something permanent. Her income is minimal but she was good with her money and had good credit. The applications she filled out where complicated for her and a little intimidating. With the help of the YW Family Shelter she had a temporary place to live with her grandchildren and children, and many supports were available to her and her family. Support was needed in filling out different applications for housing including NRH. After almost three months of searching and applying to different places, this family was accepted into the NRH program. This family now has permanent affordable housing. This family also knows they can utilize the YW outreach program when needed. When I last checked, this woman was attending school.

On another occasion, we had a single father raising his two children. They moved to St Catharines from out of province hoping to find his employment search would be more successful. This family had planned on staying with family and had been encourage too come to St Catharines, but after living with family things did not work out as planned and work was harder to find than expected.  This single father raising two children found himself and family exhausted and homeless. The YW Family Shelter took this family in, gave them their own space were they could again engage as a single family unit, as well as food and outside support.  The children re-entered school and the father searched for permanent housing, but had the comfort of knowing he had support and that he and his children were safe. This family also would require furniture as they left most belonging in their home province. After a short time this family did find permanent housing. They were referred to a furniture bank, and the father re-entered school to broaden his area in his search for employment. This family has made a positive adjustment to our city and is doing well.

A young man recently received custody of his very young son but had to relocate to make things easier for his son. This young man had to give up his job because of daycare situations and the new addition of caring for his son. He had nowhere to live while he got back on his feet. The YW Family shelter took this family in, providing a home, food and support; this gave them the time they needed to catch their breath. This young man was a great father and was so proud of his son. It didn’t take long for this father to find a job that suited his new family life and accommodated his daycare situation. This father found permanent housing for himself and his son and is enjoying his role as a single working father.

The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 5 (Conclusion)

Continuation from The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 4

Monday April 1st – It’s finally here. My appointment is in the morning I’m 15 minutes early, I’m nervous the reception just smiles. Does she know something? I’m reading a health magazine when she calls me into the office. She tells me I can bring the magazine with me as I will be waiting in the room for the doctor. I’m trying not to act nervous but wonder why she said that. This is a new doctor I just started with so I’m not sure how to read the staff here or the doctor. Finally the doctor comes into the room. I’m trying to read his expressions: does he look concerned, I can’t tell but I know he’s not smiling. Could it be bad news just because he’s not smiling? This is crazy! So then he starts talking. He’s talking about my blood work. I forgot I even had blood work done. As he reads out my blood work report, in my head I’m yelling, “I could care less about that! Get to the mammogram information!” He goes through the cholesterol then potassium, kidneys and a few others. Ok, so I eat too many bananas. I don’t care just get to the mammogram. I’m just staring at him waiting for him to get to my breast results then he says “Yes you went for some other tests,” and he starts reading the report, to himself. I’m waiting for what seems like forever. I want to holler out, “Read it out loud! I need to know!” but of course I don’t. Finally he tells me, “Everything is ok.” He continues and says that I just need to continue with my regular exams. A long breath exhaled. I could feel my chest loosen up. It’s finally over! I am fine.

Now I’m in my car thinking what a nut I was, worrying myself so bad. I should have known all would be well. I can’t believe how worried I was, but it all worked out. As I’m driving home I’m telling myself I’ll never let myself worry like that again until I actually get the results. Then thinking “Yeah sure! who am I kidding!” It was a scary experience the waiting, the not knowing, the scary thoughts running through my head. I’m glad it’s over and once again I know I’m healthy.
Once again I would like to thank you for fallowing me through my scary journey. Please remember to go for your regular checkups. Although my experience was scary it could have been a lot worse. If that bright white spot on my first test had been cancer it was small enough that I would have caught it early enough, but if I had not gotten checked and it was cancer my outcome would have not been so happy.
So please get your yearly exams. I try to do mine around my birthday. Keeping healthy is my birthday gift to myself.
Lori Papetti YW Family Shelter and Outreach Advocate
Thank you so much for following Lori’s story on Y’s Women. Lori demonstrated huge strength in sharing her story with us and we at the YW are so incredibly proud of her. She has been an example of incredible strength and vulnerability. Thank you Lori for sharing such a personal and emotional journey with us.
What has been your journey? Can you relate with Lori’s story? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or contact us directly. Y’s Women is a blog dedicated to sharing the stories and lives of women in our community. If you have a story you would like to share, please send us a copy and we would be happy to include it in our blog. 

The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 4

Continuation from The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 3

Thursday March 28-The Family Shelter move is going to be the same day I find out my results. I find sometimes doctors are so used to illness and disease that most things are nothing to them. I’ve always been physically healthy. I’ve never stayed in the hospital except for child birth. I’ve never had surgery. The worst I’ve had was a blood clot and yes that sucked but I still never had to stay in a hospital. I don’t like to take medications except natural stuff and very little of even that. I do like my essential oils and aromatherapy. As good as all that sounds I do have one bad habit: I smoke and since I started this medical journey I have smoked a lot more. How bad is that? You would think I would stop but instead I’m worse. I’ve been telling myself if all goes well on Monday as soon as I’m settle with the Family Shelter I’ll quit again but……………… We will see how that goes.

I won’t be writing again until after Monday so I thought I would discuss why I decided to share this with you. My first thought was write, it will help me deal with the stress. But later I realized there are so many women going through this. They all must be so afraid but it’s such a common occurrence it’s almost like it should be no big deal. But when you’re the one it hits it’s really scary. I’ve seen women go through so much but they seem to deal with it so well. You see them on the street and they look good, you may even comment on how well they look. But can you listen when they tell you how scared they are? Do we see them at their worst or do we judge them by the great front they put up? I wonder, is that happy positive attitude for us or does it help them? Personally I hope it helps them. Then again I remember when asking older people how they were, their answer would be “Fine, but no one would listen if I said otherwise” My answer would always be, “I would listen.” I wonder how many people feel they can’t really express their feelings of fear or pain. I thought maybe writing this would let other women know that they aren’t the only ones scared.
We all are scared; illness of any kind can be scary. We all handle things differently. Writing this did help, although I was not sure about sharing it at the beginning and I’m not sure how I will feel after seeing the doctor on Monday. I have decided to send it in today before my results so I can’t change my mind about sharing it. No matter what my results are I feel it’s important to share what I have been feeling. I’ll share with my family after Monday and if all is good they’ll tell me what a butt head I was for worrying so much and we will all have a good laugh. For myself, I will try to always remember how scared I was so that when someone else is going through a similar issue I can let them know it’s OK to be scared, it’s ok to talk about it, just don’t let the fear consume you. I used work to help keep my mind off it and sometimes I would actually even forget all about it for a while.
I would like to say thank you for your time in following me through this. Writing my story has helped me get through the waiting and I hope reading my story can help someone else.

To be continued tomorrow.

The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 3

Continuation from The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 2
Thursday March 21- I don’t know why yesterday was so hard. I guess I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I feel much better today and have a much more positive outlook today. I am going to feel pretty silly doing all this worrying for nothing. I wonder if I’m over reacting because it probably is nothing.
Tuesday March 26- I am so busy with the Family shelter move, I’m tired but keeping really busy. I received a call from the doctor’s office today. They would like to make an appointment to see me about my tests. They told me it is not an emergency but the doctor would like to discuss my results. I asked why they just couldn’t tell me now over the phone but they would tell me nothing else. My schedule is pretty full so the only appointment I could get is next Thursday. After I made the appointment I realized I have a standing appointment for that time, so now I have to call them back and try to get something else, hopefully something sooner. I just want this all over with. At this point I expect its nothing and if it is something they might just want to keep an eye on it. I hate the not knowing. It’s been 20 days so far just waiting.
Wednesday March 27- Changed my appointment to Monday morning. Easter weekend. This weekend my nieces and nephews are coming on Thursday to paint Easter eggs after work. I boiled six dozen eggs, one dozen for each kid. Can’t wait till Monday. I’m sure I’ll get good news.
One Family is settled in one of our new Family Shelters and we have one other unit ready to go April 2nd. The move is going pretty well. The rest of the stuff in the St Paul shelter will be moved to storage on Monday.

To be continued tomorrow.

The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 2

Continuation of The Lonely & Well-worn Path- Part 1
Tuesday March 12- Well I tried to keep my mind off this test all week and I think I did pretty well until last night. I had a really hard time sleeping my mind was everywhere else except on sleep. I got in to the Tech room and the lab Tech. had my breast results in full view on the screen she called me over to explain why I was there having a recall exam. Apparently there is something there in my right breast, in the canal or duct, whatever it’s called. Whatever it is, it is small. She took five more pictures from different angles using different plates. This time it was a little uncomfortable.
I have decided to keep this to myself at least for now. I’m sure it will be nothing and I want to ignore it, not because I think that will make it go away but because I don’t want to think about it and I don’t want people looking at me differently or feeling sorry for me I’m sure I’ll do that enough for myself. I will keep myself extremely busy the rest of this month with the Family Shelter move. I can consume myself in worry about that. Moving is always stressful try moving 4 apartments on Easter weekend that should be loads of fun. I have plans this week to take my mother up north for a couple of days. I need to forget what I know so I won’t talk about it.
The lab Tec told me to call my doctor in two weeks. Holy Cow! It was less than a week when they called me back for the second test why would it take two weeks for information this time? You would think this one would be even faster. I hope I don’t need something like chemo. God I don’t want to lose my hair. OK that was not a positive thought. I’m kicking that thought right to the curb.
Monday March 18- I took the trip up north. I really didn’t relax much. I did a lot of driving and visiting. On Monday on my way to work I checked my messages to find the doctor’s office had called again telling me I had another appointment this time for an ultra sound. I call asking for date and times she said it’s today at 11 a.m. Wow that was fast. Off I go again to the hospital. After my test she again tells me it will be 2 weeks before I’ll know anything. Worry all over again. I just want to know. On a positive note the tests are really quick; in and out.
Wednesday March 20- I spoke to an old friend tonight on the phone I let her know what I was going through worrying and hoping it’s nothing. I told my oldest son about the tests and that I’m a little scared he’s the first one I told in person. It was hard to talk about it, it was hard to get the words out. I told him it may be nothing and even if it was something I would be fine but that it is scary. I have been having a lot of tightness in my chest, anxiety. I don’t know if it helped to talk about it but I felt the need to say something to him. He’s 27 and he’s pretty good at putting things into perspective. I told him after this conversation I didn’t want to talk about it anymore until I get the results back. I want to get it out of my mind and keep busy.

To be continued tomorrow.

The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 1

For the next week, we will be posting a series of journal entries from the YW’s Family Shelter Outreach Advocate, Lori Papetti as she journeys down a seemingly lonely path. It’s a path no woman wants to walk along, however, it is a well traveled road by many women before her.
Come back to Y’s Women each day this week to follow Lori’s story, The Lonely & Well-Worn Path.
Wednesday March 6 – It was a nice day at work, not too busy. I felt like I got a lot accomplished. I got home and felt a little strange. I haven’t had much time to myself lately and this feeling that I was supposed to do something or be somewhere was consuming me. I guess I’m just not used to having time to myself. I walked over to my phone to check for messages since I had not been home all day or evening on Tuesday. I listened to my messages, one concerning another family member, one from a friend and then it came, a call I never expected, never even thought about. One from my doctor, a short message just stating I have been scheduled for a recall mammogram. They gave the date, time and place. That’s it. Well I listened to this message 3 times trying to understand what this meant. I called the doctor’s office knowing full well they were closed but left a message asking them to call me to provide more information about this recall mammogram. Now I’m at the computer googling any information I can find on this recall mammogram. Did they find something? I’ve never felt anything; this was just a routine checkup I had.
Six days until my next exam and then I’ll have to wait a few days for results. This is so scary. I worried about my health insurance but was thankful because through my job I have some coverage. The last couple of years I had no coverage at all. I own my own home so chances are I would have lost that without some kind of coverage. What about my job?
I’m not scared of dyeing, but I am really scared of being sick or not being able to take care of myself. It’s amazing the things that go through your mind when you get a scary message like this.
I started thinking about the women I know that have gone through breast cancer. My first thought was my aunt. She is a strong woman full of life. She made it and is doing fine.
I will admit I’m scared, I like my breasts. I know it might be wrong but they seem a part of my identity. When my weight is out of control I would wear clothes that brought attention to them instead of to my weight. Yes I’ll admit at times they got in the way but all in all I like my breasts.
I know I’m a strong woman. I know I’ll survive.
I’ve met many women in the last few years that have dealt with so many difficult issues I feel I need to look at this as a small issue. These women have dealt with so much in their lives how can I possibly let this issue be a major concern to me?
I can see as I am even writing this that my mind is already thinking the worst. I will work hard on keeping a good attitude and try really hard not to even think about it until the results are in. In fact I’m sure everything will come out fine. The lab Tec probably smudged the negative. I am going to try to not think about this until after the next results are in.

To be continued tomorrow.

We Are Here to Help- Family Shelter Update

The YW Family Shelter has been in operation for just over a year. We started out in a four-plex and could house four different families at a time. The shelter was almost always full with families moving in and out. Since we opened in July 2011, 62 families have been housed and almost all of them found permanent housing after leaving the YW Family Shelter.

The average stay at the Shelter is two to three months, just enough time for a family to catch their breath, get on their feet, and find new affordable housing so they can settle in permanently and resume their life. The time it takes to find housing varies though. Some find housing within a few weeks, others take a little longer.

The YW Family Shelter has housed 19 Families since Sept 2012, prepared 8,625 meals, had 16 moms and 11 dads utilize the YW Family Shelters and 47 children have been able to lay their sleepy heads on a YW bed, keeping warm and sheltered from the outside elements. Many of the dads were single fathers raising their children without a partner. The impact of having a safe place to rest during such a tough time in your life is huge.

Originally, the Family Shelter was located on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines, however we had to move in April due to demolition of the building. We were fully anticipating this happening, and had made plans to move to a new location, however last minute those plans fell through and we were stuck without a place to put our families. I must admit, it was scary not knowing were these families were going to go, but the YW and the community came through again. Just before we closed the YW Family Shelter on St Paul Street, we acquired two new units in the community; a two bedroom and a three bedroom apartment. These units allowed families to stay together at a time when they needed each other most.

I can’t tell you how good it feels when someone calls needing our service and I can say “don’t worry we are here to help” and “yes, we have room”. Those four words give me the greatest feeling. “Yes we have room.” On the other hand, I feel so awful when all our units are full and we can’t take a family in when they are in desperate need. I can refer them somewhere else and/or put them on our waiting list, but chances are, this family will be separated. The YW and other agencies are doing their best to house the homeless, but with our economy the way it is, it’s hard to keep up with the demand. I just can’t say it enough: Ontario needs more affordable housing. The YW is working hard to acquire more units we can utilize as Family Shelters. We are expecting to have more availability in May.
Turning a family — any family — away in their time of need is an awful feeling. It’s definitely not a part of my job that I enjoy, but it is a reality. There are times we just do not have anything available.
I would like to thank the YW, the many other shelter agencies, and the community for coming to the aid of families that are in housing crisis. You make a difference in these families lives that goes beyond the physical need for shelter. Thank you.

Lori Papetti, Family Shelter/Outreach Advocate

Do you agree that more affordable housing is needed in Ontario. Ring this doorbell to show your support for more affordable housing so that the many families in need can find housing in their communities.

Lose the Hate!

Prejudice: (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge – Websters Dictionary

Prejudices can come in all different forms and can be seen in many different places. Often it’s easier to look the other way than to do something about it, but when it comes knocking on your door, it’s time to take a stand.

I am writing this post because the YW recently had another family looking for housing, and like many others, they were driven from their home because of prejudice neighbours, neighbours who made “preconceived judgements…without just grounds.” The neighbours were so full of hate that these families were forced by fear to leave their homes. How awful it is to have to pack up and move because of fear? Imagine not feeling safe in your own home, and to wake up in the morning to find your property vandalized. These families fear for their children’s safety as well as their own. The unfortunate reality though, is that these families are not fleeing from some far off country, you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about leaving neighbourhoods right here in our own community.
When a family comes to the YW stating they can no longer stay in their home because they fear a neighbour, it just appalls me. They feel they don’t want to cause trouble and they take the abuse for as long as they can. They try to ignore the racial slurs thrown at them and their children. They don’t enjoy their yards for fear of being seen and ridiculed. No one should have to live like that.
You would think here in Canada, a country considered a multi-cultural “mosaic,” that prejudice would not exist or at least be very minimal.You would think we would be accepting of others and embrace our differences. How I wish I could say that was true. It’s not! Here in Canada where most of us, or our ancestors, have come from other parts of the world, we still have people in our community who think their race is better. What an awful way to live. I almost feel sorry for people with such closed minds who think their race is better. If only they would open up their minds and learn from everybody around them. Try different foods, learn about other cultures or maybe even other religions. Every culture and every race has something to give and teach us all. Lose the hate! Hate is not good for you or your community.
I believe prejudice grows through ignorance and fear. There is no need for ignorance. Open your mind, explore your community, get to know people from other countries, and ask questions. Your fear will vanish, your life will be fuller, and we will all have a much healthier community.

Life Happens

The YW Family Shelter as been in operation just over a year and it houses four families at a time. It’s really quite amazing to see all the different families going through this shelter and see the relief when I  tell them we have room and can take them in. The gratefulness they express is heartfelt. The fears they have are enormous. The stress of being homeless is bad enough, but to be homeless with children to care for is almost unimaginable to most of us.

Yet it happens right here in Canada — in your own back yard right here in St Catharines — and it happens a lot. You may think this could never happen to you, but let me tell you, most of these families believed that it wouldn’t happen to them. But it did.
Life happens. Utility prices go up, food gets more expensive, jobs get lost, cheques can be late, unexpected bills can arrive, medication costs can add up, and then your building can be sold out from under you. It could be any one of these issues and many more that push you into homelessness. Most of us might get through one or two of these with our savings, but when too many issues come at you all at once it’s like a landslide. And you may not be able to dig yourself out. You may be able to handle the finances, but try finding affordable housing if your are downsizing to accommodate a decrease in salary or loss of a job. You may encounter a landlord asking for application fees. Can you imagine paying to apply to live somewhere? And paying not just a small fee but $100 or more? It can happen and it does happen.
When you lose your home it’s a really scary thing. Your children feel the stress you’re going through. They are scared too. They are afraid of leaving their home, friends, and possibly their school. They may not understand what’s going on but they know something is wrong. Maybe they sense mom and dad are scared. Children find it very confusing. Parents are not supposed to get scared, or so they believe. It really is a frightful time for the whole family.
The pleasure I get when I can tell parents to relax, and that we are here to help or that we’ll get you settled — give you a place to rest, a place to sleep, a place to regroup with your family, and help you in your search for permanent housing — it’s the most gratifying feeling. The look of relief on their faces is priceless. You can actually see some of the stress disappearing from their faces. The parents look at the children and feel good assuring them everything is going to be OK. Then the children smile and when some get excited, that’s when you realize how worried these children really were. The issue of homelessness belongs to all of us and homelessness can happen to any of us.
It’s a lot of work raising a family and sometimes parents need a little help. I’m extremely glad the YW Family Shelter is here to give families that hand up, to get them back on their feet, to let them take a breath, to help them get suitable permanent housing, and most of all to keep the family together.

Lori Papetti is the YW’s Outreach worker and Family Shelter advocate. Currently the YW has four family units all with a 85-90% occupancy rate. This past week we had a family of 8 looking for a place to stay. It can happen to any of us.

Photo credit: Cia de Foto / Foter.com / CC BY