Tag Archives: Nellie’s Shelter

Engaging Black History Month: Making All Our Stories Matter

1 Feb

When I was a child nothing excited me more than hearing what my mother used to refer to as her ‘long time stories’. She only shared these stories when her relatives gathered together (this was on rare occasions), but when she did share them it was magical for me. They were a way for me to know my grandmother and grandfather, who had both died when my mother was a child.  Hearing of my grandmother’s strength and even about how her fingers were long and crooked like mine somehow helped me feel connected to her. I learned about my mother’s home, a place I’d never been to but that I developed an intimate bond with as it came to life for me in her detailed and animated accounts.  I also learned of the struggles my mother, her sister and brother faced, and the compromises they made to survive the challenges of being poor, orphaned and black in a British West Indian colony in the 1940s.

ImageIt was only as I grew older that the fact that these stories were so utterly precious was revealed to me. They were a testament to the creativity, resilience and survival of these communities.  They also offered an important oral narrative of some of the ways that gender, race, poverty and violence were critical to who my mother and family became, and also to the conditions of the larger communities that we were a part of. As a child, I did not encounter these stories in my history books, in the news, or on television. These stories were quiet ‘private’ memories that did not really seem to matter in public spaces.


As we celebrate Black History month this February, we are given the opportunity to reflect on why these stories do matter, while commemorating the losses, sacrifices, and victories of diverse Black communities across the globe. Black History Month, which began as a week-long tribute in 1926, has evolved into the month long event we mark today, and as we take the time acknowledge the significant contributions and ongoing struggles of Black folk across the world, it is also critical that we never stop asking the questions: Whose stories are still not acknowledged? Whose stories do we attend to more often? How do we ensure that we are open to the diverse stories within our communities- our transtories, herstories and madstories, among others? How do we value these diverse contributions? Here at Nellies, we are committed to challenging violence and oppression, and to building equitable communities where all of our stories matter. So let us commune, celebrate, question and continue to share—Happy Black Stories Month!

*written by Nellie’s Shelter staff member.


Happy Holidays from Nellie’s Shelter!

21 Dec

On behalf of everyone at Nellie’s Shelter, we would like to say thank you to all our supporters, donors, and volunteers who have made this holiday season happy and bright for all the women and children who are staying with us.

Nellie's Tree

With your kindness and generosity we have been able to provide gifts for over 200 women and children at our shelter and in the community. From workplace toy drives, holiday party fundraisers, and individual support, each and every contribution has made a great difference in the lives of women and children who are facing violence, poverty and homelessness this holiday season.

If you would still like to support the women and children at Nellie’s you can do so by making a financial donation here.

Best wishes for a joyous and happy holidays!

Drop off Infant Care Items at the Jones & Gerrard Starbucks

30 Nov

Coming to the shelter as a new or expecting mom is never easy. Leaving situations of violence and abuse, many women come to Nellie’s in the hopes of beginning new lives for themselves and their children.

This holiday season our friends at Starbucks are collecting infant care items to support the moms and babies at Nellie’s. Throughout December you can drop off baby toiletries, diapers, food and formula at the Jones and Gerrard Store, 1062 Gerrard Street East.

Here’s the latest donation that arrived at Nellie’s yesterday. Thank you to all who have contributed so far!

Baby Donation Starbucks

16 Days: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World

27 Nov

“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”

This is the theme for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.  Organizers say that militarism creates a culture of fear and promotes violent forms of masculinity which endanger women.  According to the United Nations around 90% of war casualties are civilians, mostly women and children. A century ago 90% of those who lost their lives were military personnel.

This year the 16 Days Campaign’s focus on militarism centers on three priority areas:

1. Violence by State Actors such as army and police, who believe they can commit crimes with impunity and use the need for “security” as an excuse for violence and intimidation. A recent report by the ROJ Women Association revealed that Kurdish women activists in Turkey regularly endure horrific acts of violence by Turkish security forces including torture, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and psychological abuse. Unfortunately, only 10% of the women who endure such violence come forward to share their stories, and even then, they are regularly dismissed by the State. As is the case in so many other instances of violence against women, if there is no proper punishment for perpetrators, the violence will continue indefinitely.

2. The Role of Small Arms such as guns and machetes. According to the The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) women’s network  there are nearly 900 million small arms in the world today, and more than 75% are in the hands of private individuals—mostly men. Having a small weapon in the home increases the overall risk of someone being murdered by 41% and for women the risk is nearly tripled.  Here’s a short video from Switzerland advocating for the removal of firearms from the home:

3. Sexual Violence during and after conflict.  After a conflict ends, sexual violence continues as a tactic to reinforce hierarchies and humiliate women and their communities. Many women’s organizations have questioned the use of terms like “post-conflict” when brutal violence still takes place on a daily basis. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, estimates that 420,000 women per year are subject to sexual violence.  Eve Ensler’s V-Day is one organization dedicated to ending violence in countries in conflict like the DRC.  If you want to take action now to end rape and gender violence in conflict zones, you can sign this petition from the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Violence in Conflict.

At Nellie’s we support many women who are dealing with trauma from militarism in Canada and around the world. Some of our staff have, themselves, experienced and witnessed this trauma and tomorrow we will share one of their stories.

November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month

2 Nov

November is Women Abuse Awareness Month in Ontario. Previously called Wife Assault Prevention Month, this month recognizes and highlights violence against women. Women’s rights are human rights, and this month is an opportunity to reflect and take action.

According to Statistics Canada,

-Every 6 days in Canada, a woman is killed by her intimate partner

-About 3000 women and 2500 children are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence

-About 80% of sex trafficking victims are women and young girls

-As of 2010, there were 582 known cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls

-Half of all women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence by the age of 16.

Recently in our city, on October 23rd, Nighisti Semret was fatally stabbed in a back alley in Cabbagetown as she walked home from work. Nighisti came to Canada from Eritrea and she left behind four children in her native country. According to this story, police officers are still trying to uncover the motives for her murder.  Her story matters because it is similar to the stories of so many women accessing our services.  Upon arrival in Canada as a new immigrant, Nighisti faced homelessness and poverty, and ultimately violence.  At Nellie’s we operate from an anti-racism and anti-oppression framework and believe that systemic racism, discrimination, and oppression based on race, class, sexual orientation, gender identification, age, and ability must be addressed as part of an integrated approach to addressing violence in the lives of women and children.

Several campaigns are occurring across the province and internationally this month to commemorate Woman Abuse Awareness Month that you can be a part of. They include the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, the White Ribbon Campaign, and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. At Nellie’s we will be launching our 2nd annual 16 Days to End Gender Violence Blog Series on November 25th.  During this time we will be sharing stories, articles, and videos about the work we do at Nellie’s. If you’d like to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss a post, you can do so at the bottom of the page.

During this month, and everyday of the year, here are some things you can do to help end violence against women:

-Refuse to remain silent when witnessing violent acts against women

-Speak up against racism, ableism, transphobia, anti-semitism, classis, ageism and heterosexism

-Do not judge any woman who decides to remain in an abusive situation, instead, offer assistance in any possible you can

-Participate in social justice activities in your community

Nellie’s is committed to continue advocating for women’s rights and to stand up against violence done to women. Please join us this month online via twitter and facebook as well as at events in the community to end violence against women!

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.

Team Nellie’s Race Re-Cap!

15 Oct

Wow! What a day! Despite a wet start, our team members braved the rain at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in support of the women and kids at Nellie’s!

(Team Members Elizabeth and Kiela)

Our team members ran in the 5K and half-marathon races, and although their shoes were soaked and their clothes were wet, each one came across the finish line with a smile.  We are so proud of all of you.

(Team Members Louise and Faye)

Our fantastic team has raised $15,822, which is 80% of our $20,000 goal.  100% of the money raised will go to support our programs for disAbled women, including our Women and Accessibility Support Group. If you would still like to make a donation to our team, you can do so here.

It was wonderful to be part of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon again this year and we look forward to participating in 2013. Thank you to our amazing team members and generous donors for making this year another great success!