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Happy New Year!

4 Jan

Happy New Year! We hope you are off to a great start in 2013!

We had a peaceful and joyous start to the new year at Nellie’s Shelter thanks to the generosity and love of everyone who supported us over the holidays and throughout the year.

Since 1973 we have been committed to social change to achieve social justice for all women and children. We stand in solidarity with everyone who has made a commitment to end violence against women in our city, our country, and around the world.

We look forward to working with you in 2013.

Maureen with kids

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Aliza’s Story

1 Nov

Women who live in poverty are more likely to experience violence.  In fact, at Nellie’s we believe that poverty is a form of violence against women.

Aliza came to Nellie’s 5 years ago with her young daughter. She was homeless and without a penny to her name after her husband left her for the second time.  She had been financially dependent on him and without a job or any support from family or friends, she struggled to make ends meet.  When Aliza’s husband left he took everything from their apartment so she was left with nothing but the clothes on her back.  She came to Nellie’s as so many women often do, empty handed but for the child by her side.

Upon arrival at Nellie’s Aliza disclosed that her ex-husband beat her regularly during the years they were together. She re-told incidents of horrific abuse and violation after he would come home drunk at night. At Nellie’s we made sure that Aliza received the appropriate counseling resources she needed to work through her trauma so she could regain her strength and self-confidence, for herself and her daughter.

While Aliza was with us, we began the process of applying for affordable housing.  When women are at our shelter, securing safe and affordable housing is the first step they take towards beginning new lives, free from abuse.  While Aliza did not qualify for Special Priority Housing because she did not have documents to prove cohabitation with her ex-husband, we were able to secure temporary housing for her through the Housing Allowance Program which provides tenants with financial assistance with rent for 5 years.  Although this relief would be temporary, it addressed Aliza’s immediate needs in the face of no other options.

In March of 2013, Aliza’s 5 year Housing Allowance Program will be complete.  This means she will no longer receive any financial assistance to help pay her rent.  Although she is working, her limited income cannot cover market rent rates, leaving her and her daughter at great risk for becoming homeless again.  Aliza’s future depends on breaking the cycle of poverty in which she is currently trapped. Temporary solutions like the Housing Allowance Program offer short-term relief, but do little to address the larger systemic issue of the lack of affordable housing in our city.  Although Aliza no longer has to fear punches and bruises from her husband, she continues to experience violence as result of living in poverty.

Today, we continue to support Aliza.  Our Transitional Housing Support Worker is assisting Aliza with navigating the difficult subsidized housing process.  We are helping her apply for Rent Geared to Income Housing, connecting her to counseling supports, increasing her involvement in the community, and encouraging her to explore additional government supports. Despite the challenges they have faced and the difficult journey they have been on, Aliza and her daughter are survivors and this story is the story of so many women who come to Nellie’s.

Nurturing Ourselves Workshop

31 Oct

This month We had our first Nurturing Ourselves Workshop at the shelter.  This workshop was created with the goal of providing the women at our shelter with a great afternoon filled with pampering and self care. While women are at our shelter, their days are always busy.  Between looking after their children, attending appointments, personal errands, and trying to stay calm during a difficult time, the physical and emotional toll can  be great. We created the Nurturing Ourselves Workshop to give women a space to relax, unwind, rejuvenate, and practice self-care. This new program will run twice a month.

Our first session was great! Women were very excited to do manicures, pedicures, and makeup and share creative tips on how they like to relax.   Despite the rainy, cold day outside, everyone’s spirits were lifted by the smell and taste of freshly baked cookies and hot coffee prepared by the staff.  Sharon, a mother of three particularly enjoyed the group as it gave her some time to relax and recharge after taking care of her children all day.  She had this to say: “On such a dreary, rainy day the Nellie’s Group made it sunny with manicures and taking care of ourselves.”

Thanks to the generous support of The Body Shop Eaton Centre, we were able to provide every woman with a lovely self-care product at the end of our first workshop.  Items included body lotion, body wash, shampoo and conditioner. These items added a special touch to the workshop and will remind the women to take some time out of every day to pamper themselves.

We look forward to our next session of the Nurturing Ourselves Workshop.

Women at Nellie’s Enjoy an Afternoon of Gardening

29 May

Last week staff Meghan and Cecelia facilitated a gardening program for the women and children staying at our shelter.

We planted lettuce, kale, spinach, sweet potato, echinacea, chamomile, cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, basil, sage, lavender, rosemary, thyme, parsley, green beans, carrots and sweet peas.

Here is what the women and children had to say about the day:

 “This is so fun!  All the herbs smell so good!”

 “Out of 10, I give this gardening program a 15!”

“This has been such a wonderful afternoon.” 

A special thanks to Sara, Nicole, Cameron and Joce Tremblay who were gardening volunteers for the day.

Mother’s Day Memories

16 May

Here’s a re-cap of some of the wonderful events that took place at Nellie’s in honour of Mother’s Day.

On Thursday afternoon the women at Nellie’s enjoyed a Mother’s Day Celebration organized by Tony Roost of One Fire Movement, musician Rory O’Hearn, yoga instructor Marinella Nesso  and photographer Jason Lutz.   Marinella opened the event with an hour long yoga session that had everyone participating!  The women went through deep-breathing, stretching, and relaxation exercises specifically created to celebrate and honour the hard work of motherhood. Following this, Rory serenaded the women with some Bob Marley songs as well as a couple original tunes about strength and perseverance in times of struggle.  The entire afternoon was captured on film and video by photographer Jason.  Thank you Tony for bringing together a such a wonderful group of artists to celebrate the Mother’s Day  at Nellie’s!

 “Today made me realize how important self-care really is.  My spirit is soaring.”

On Saturday evening the women at the Shelter were treated to a Mother’s Day Photoshoot organized by Juanita Morris and her friends.  Stylists Carol, Hayley, Maggie and Alice provided hair and make-up services to each of the women as they prepared to have their photos taken.  Photographers David, Gavin and Louise captured many special Mother’s Day memories of women and their children.  Blacks  has generously offered to process and print the pictures free of charge and flowers for the photo-shoot were generously donated by our East-End neighbours Quince Flowers.

“It’s wonderful to be a Mother at Nellie’s.”

The Body Shop made Mother’s Day extra special for the women by donating gift baskets to everyone at the Shelter.  Both The Body Shop Beaches and The Body Shop Eaton Centre chose Nellie’s as the recipient of their in-kind fundraising campaign “Another for a Mother.”  During the month of May customers added a gift box to their purchase and donated it back to The Body Shop.  Thank you to everyone who contributed to this campaign – the women loved their gifts!

Walmart Canada facilitated a surprise Mother’s Day gift –a lovely silver necklace for every woman at the shelter. Receiving this thoughtful gift moved many residents to tears. On Sunday the residents enjoyed a lovely Mother’s Day Brunch at the shelter. The day was amazing for the women and was certainly one to remember. At a time when motherhood is so widely discussed, it was wonderful for mothers at the shelter to celebrate their beautiful selves and to honour their choices.

“I love you mom.”

Thank you to all our financial donors who responded so generously in giving to our 2012 Mother’s Day Appeal. Your support enables us to provide all the mothers and children at Nellie’s the support and services they need to ensure a brighter future for themselves and their children. Thank you to our community for making all the women at Nellie’s feel special!

Women at Nellie’s Enjoy a Visit from Rayne Spa

9 May

Last week the women at Nellie’s Shelter enjoyed a visit from the staff at Rayne Spa. Renay Loucaides, owner of Rayne Spa was joined by her staff Jen Caruso (Lash Technician and Makeup Artist), Liana Costa (Esthetician), and Melaine Tiburzi (RMT) who provided head and neck massages and facials.

(Jen, Liana, Renay and Melaine from Rayne Spa).

Here is what the women at Nellie’s had to say about the experience:

“I look so good, I don’t even recognize myself.”
“I feel so good, it’s like suddenly I can think clearly.”
“The facial was so divine, it felt like heaven.”
“I fee so pretty.”

Thank you to the wonderful women from Rayne Spa for giving the women at the shelter an opportunity to relax and be pampered.  We truly appreciate it!

May Day of Action: Status For All

7 May

On Monday May 1st, Nellie’s participated in the May Day of Action: Status for All organized by No One Is Illegal.  This event was part of a world-wide movement to mark International Workers’ Day, as workers unite in solidarity in over 80 countries to raise awareness about Worker’s Rights and the fight for a more just and equitable world for everyone.

With Nellie’s staff, volunteers, and clients, we marched in the rally at Nathan Philips Square and participated in the cultural celebration and festivities that followed.

We marched to stop the cuts, expand services to all, to respect Indigenous sovereignty, insist that no one is illegal, for international workers solidarity, to defend and expand public services, to stop prison expansion and corporate handouts, to end imperialist wars and aggression, to build people’s power, and to move beyond capitalism.  For more information on the May Day of Action, please visit No One Is Illegal.