The move to the new shelter in February has opened up a lot of new possibilities for us. It is no secret that in the old building, we were cramped for space. At 8,900 sq. ft., we had 36 beds in only nine bedrooms. Our Children’s Program was held in a single, small playroom in the basement. There were few private areas and because of the lack of congregate spaces, in-shelter group programs often had to be held at our Administrative and Community Services Office a few blocks away. (An obstacle which would sometimes deter women from attending.)
Now, aside from the fact that we have up to 40 beds across 22 bedrooms (each with their own bathroom), the entire third floor is dedicated to providing impactful programs for women and their children. Anyone who has ever lived through a major renovation or construction project knows that the settling-in process, and the finishing touches process, is never ending, but just being in this new building opens up our ability to provide help and support far beyond crisis housing and support programs. It allows us to better empower women in achieving their individualized goals while also working to create the social change needed to stem the flow of violence on a systemic level.
In the spring, we became the first gender-based violence organization in Canada to implement the world-renowned anti-bullying program, Rock and Water, to support the healing and growth of children living at Nellie’s. A few months later, we introduced PAVE Prevention (Proactive Anti-Violence Education) for the women living at Nellie’s. It is a trauma-informed program dedicated to creating safer workplaces and communities around the world by providing training on proactively preventing, responding to and healing from violent events. But the goal of PAVE is even greater; we are raising funds to enable Nellie’s staff to undergo PAVE facilitator training in order to teach these proven prevention tools to our community partners in an effort to manage violence and micro-aggressions before they become crisis situations.
Our capital campaign also continues as we raise the funds needed to convert the building into a fully accessible one. (Currently, it is partially accessible as the elevator does not go to all floors. As well, only the basement building entrance is accessible as there are only stairs, and no ramp, at the front entrance.) When someone with a disability comes to Nellie’s – any disability at all—we want her to know that we are here to help her, and being fully accessible is one of the ways we can make sure she knows that.
Our role in the community is a demanding one, but we are proud to be leading change by developing innovative solutions to shape a clear and distinctive path forward for those who need us most. It is easy for organizations in any sector to continue to follow the same tried and tested path. But as we approach our 50th anniversary in 2023, we are committed to trying new approaches and tactics in order to make an even greater impact. Some may be more successful than others, but leading change is about being innovative and thinking differently so that one day, we will realize a world free of oppression and violence for all women and children.