Women’s Crisis Services Reaches Near Capacity

Recently, Anselma House, a non-profit organization part of the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region (WCSWR) that aims to provide shelter, education and outreach services to abused women and their children, has experienced an influx of people seeking their resources.

“I think there is a number of factors that can contribute to that increase number,” said Mary Zilney, CEO of WCSWR. “Certainly we have very strong collaborations in the community and as a result, our community awareness has been heightened, especially through the building of the new shelter.”

The new shelter – located on Heritage Drive in Kitchener – was opened in 2011 and has 45 available beds. Additionally, the Anselma House services have gained a larger presence in the community having partnered with Cambridge’s Haven House in 2001 to form WCSWR.

Helen Ramirez, a women studies professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, shared her opinion on the matter. “Shelters have a really difficult task,” she explained. “Certain groups of women are less inclined to seek help.”

Those groups of women include transgender and queer, among others. In WCSWR’s mission statement, they stress that assistance is provided to any woman of any race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion and cultural beliefs.

Ramirez added that there is a fear among these women because they don’t know what to do after their stay at the shelter. However, Zilney explained that all women and children are provided services that help them with this transition.

Anselma House and Haven House also provide services for women with children. Zilney noted that their main goal “is to help women move beyond violence and abuse. At any given time, half our numbers are children. [Say] we have 42 [beds occupied,] we have 21 children.”

The centre provides programs for women and children to help them become independently safe. “We have a child and youth program and a child and family therapist who work with the children to let them know its not their fault and to provide them some safe space to talk about what’s going on in their family,” added Zilney.

Zilney added that they have a collaboration agreement with Waterloo Region Housing that gives priority to the women moving out of the shelter and into a suitable house.

Zilney explained that some of the beds are funded from the community and their donors. However, funding is always an issue for a non-profit organization.
“Well there is a shortage in funds that we need to fundraise for and we are in discussions with the ministry all the time,” said Zilney.

“No one knew that once we opened a new facility, that the number of women that were going to come forward [would drastically increase]. So, the community has been amazing in donating to us and we encourage that so that we can continue to offer the same level of service we always do.”

With plans to expand even further into the Cambridge area, the Women’s Crisis Services hopes to bring more awareness to the issue at hand. Their expansion in June of 2011 immensely helped bring attention to the Anselma and Haven houses and has enabled them to provide support for women and children suffering from abuse.

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