Women's shelter executive director wants people to know about their services

·4 min read

Chantal Mailloux says having a great team and support at Ellevive, a centre for francophone women experiencing violence, helps a lot as it does get “heavy at times.”

“What really helps in this work, in this environment that we work in, is the team that you work with. We have some good laugh, sometimes we just go and sit have coffee and talk,” says Mailloux, Ellevive’s executive director. “And I have a great support system at home as well ... that’s really the way I cope with stress.”

Born in Sturgeon Falls and raised in Temiscaming, Qué., Mailloux, 33, studied child and youth worker program at Collège Boréal in Sudbury. Her passion for working with “troubled youth" attracted her to the program.

“Funnily enough, I never worked in that field. I only did my school and my placement and it’s close enough to social work,” she says. “It really did help me because what you learned in that program is really helpful with what I do right now.”

She moved to Timmins after meeting her husband who worked in the mines in Sudbury at the time. After she finished her placement at an elementary school in Timmins, she got a part-time job as a frontline worker at the Centre Passerelle pour femmes du Nord de l’Ontario, which was recently rebranded as Ellevive.

She started up an outreach counselling program and helped open the centre’s women’s shelter in 2010.

“For my career, it was really interesting to start up a program but I had a lot of help from other agencies as well who already had that program. I was able to do it pretty well,” she recalls. “There weren’t many challenges other than not really knowing what I was doing but still figuring it out.”

Mailloux became the executive director at the Ellevive in 2019. The organization offers programs and services for francophone women over the age of 16 who have been subjected to sexual assault and violence.

“It’s a no-judgment spot where they can come and get help,” she says. “It is really our goal at the moment: to be known by people who need services as well as different community agencies that they know what we do and refer women to our services.”

Ellevive’s women’s shelter is open year-round, 24/7.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and people were staying home, Mailloux says the staff at the shelter expected to get busier and receive more calls but the opposite happened. Mailloux says she thinks it was because it was harder for women to reach out for help at the time.

“Throughout the province, a lot of shelters had nobody for a little while. We were one of the shelters who had no one in it sometimes which was really concerning,” she says. “If the abuse was still happening and domestic violence was still happening but women were kind of stuck in their house, I think it was this fear of going into a community space where there were more people. So maybe they thought, ‘At least I know my danger here at home but there may be more dangerous going into a shelter and having COVID.’"

She says there was a fear of COVID, "and also, not being able to grab the phone and call because they were always with their abusers.”

When more business and places started to reopen, the shelter started receiving a lot more calls, Mailloux says. The shelter usually provides 10 beds and five rooms but the capacity changed to adhere to social distancing rules. Currently, there are four available rooms for women and families. There is also one room available is someone tests positive or needs to self-isolate.

As a bilingual, whose husband and four children also speak French, Mailloux says knowing the French culture and language are important to her.

“To be able to be francophone is a great asset and I want my kids to know that,” she says. “Bilingualism is amazing to have in life. We always speak French at home, (kids) watch French TV, they go to French school.”

Her interests also include downhill skiing, camping, painting and spending time with her children.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com