Women in Uxbridge who find themselves in unsafe domestic circumstances will soon have an alternative to heading to the south part of the region - North Durham is finally getting a women’s shelter.
Two representatives from The Nourish and Develop Foundation (TNDF), in Cannington, spoke at Monday’s council meeting to “introduce themselves” and tell council what services are currently available at TNDF, and that more, including the shelter, are coming.
Johanne St. Louis, women’s services coordinator at TNDF, gave council some details regarding the new shelter, which will be built onto the current home of TNDF in Cannington. The shelter, as she described it, will cover 2,500 square feet over three floors and be a 12-bed VAW [Violence Against Women] Emergency Shelter, “so it will be very secure.”
“The shelter will be able to accept to women who are wanting to leave abusive relationships, to victims of human trafficking, to women at risk of homelessness, and to teens over 16 who cannot live at home,” explained St. Louis.
St. Louis also revealed that the shelter, which is expected to operational by Fall 2022, will be a pet-friendly shelter, meaning that women will be welcome to bring family pets with them to the shelter. The only other shelter that does this in Durham Region is in Bowmanville.
In addition to being pet-friendly, TNDF is organizing a livestock fostering program, so larger animals that need care will go to local farms and live there until such time as the woman “can get sorted and into a new place.”
The TNDF shelter will be the fifth in Durham Region - the other four are in the south, and St. Louis told council that, in working with these various shelters, consensus is that women in the northern part of the region are very reluctant to seek help in the south.
“We found that women often stay in bad situations just because the alternative is scary. If you’re from [anywhere in North Durham] you may not want to go to Oshawa and uproot your children and change your whole life. Your job may be here, your supports are here. This is an exciting opportunity for women north of the 407 to get help that’s more specific to their needs.”
Regional councillor Gord Highet asked St. Louis whether the TNDF shelter would specifically serve only the residents of Brock Township, Scugog and Uxbridge. St. Louis explained that, at the moment, many of the services that the TNDF offers are for Brock residents, but that the shelter would be open to all of North Durham. She added that, if someone from the south needed help leaving a situation and the North Durham shelter had a bed available, the woman would not be turned away.
Highet then commended St. Louis and her colleague, community development manager Rebecca Jeschke, stating that “people think of this issue as a metropolitan problem, but it’s not.”
Jeschke, at the beginning of the presentation to council, explained that TNDF has been working in the community for several years to enhance local food security, including operating a food bank, a seed library and a community garden. It’s now expanding its services to specifically support women in need.
“The connection to these food access programs and a women’s shelter may not be clear,” said Jeschke, “but the conditions that lend themselves to food insecurity ... can also give rise to intimate partner violence,” said Jeschke. “For this reason, women’s services at TNDF is a natural fit.”
A women’s services resource centre will be opening next month. St. Louis pointed out that the resource room will be named to honour Brock Mayor Debbie Bath-Hadden, who passed away in January.
Currently, TNDF offers services and support to women who are experiencing violence and abuse. The organization provides emergency supplies such as food and clothing, as well as referrals to emergency services, counselling and transitional housing, all while raising awareness for the prevention of violence against women in the community.
“Our main goal at the moment is to raise awareness about our current services which include advocacy, referrals, emergency food, clothing and transportation as well as counseling services. We want the women in our communities to know they are not alone and help is available,” says St. Louis.
She also noted that TNDF is collecting a few items for its resource centre. “We need new cosmetics, toiletries, socks, pajamas and undergarments for women. We are also collecting books for our library. These could be novels, self-help or other inspiring books that might be interesting to women.” Items can be dropped off by appointment at TNDF in Cannington.
The Nourish and Develop Foundation is a privately funded foundation, and monetary donations can be made directly through its website. More information about its many services and programs can found at www.tndf.ca It can also be reached by phone at 705-996-0302 or toll free at 833-979-0302.
Justyne Edgell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter (with Lisha Van Nieuwenhove), The Uxbridge Cosmos