A recent report co-authored by YW Kitchener-Waterloo (YWKW), the longest-serving and largest social services organization for women and youth in the region, Coalition of Muslim Women, and Community Justice Initiatives, is part of Project Willow, a study depicting violence against women in the Waterloo Region.

The study highlights the fact that 92 per cent of homeless women reported experiencing violence at least once a week.

This is just one of many shocking statistics that sheds light on the challenges that women experiencing homelessness face in the region.

While it is estimated that there are 235,000 homeless individuals across Canada, this number doesn’t account for the many women living in temporary accommodations such as hotels, with friends or strangers, or in housing situations that are inadequate. Many of the clients that we serve at Shelter Movers fall into this category.

More than 8 in 10, or 83% of respondents also said they chose to stay in a housing situation that was also abusive or violent because it felt safer than being on the street.

Nearly all respondents said verbal violence is something they deal with on a regular basis.

Jennifer Gordon, Director of Advocacy, YWKW

At Shelter Movers, we continue to support any and all survivors regardless of their living situation. We recognize that everyone’s needs are different and don’t place a time limit on how long we store belongings for clients.

If you know of someone who could benefit from our services, you can refer a client or survivor for a move.

In recent years, social media discourse has started to shift the public conversation on sexual assault. Everyday, new posts go up reinforcing the idea that sexual violence is not a result of how a woman acts or dresses, but the actions of predators. However, despite societal changes that are starting to emphasize men’s culpability for gender-based violence, the natural conclusion that violence prevention must start with men, is still controversial in some ways. Gender-based violence takes root in social environments that value patriarchal and misogynistic beliefs, but with proper intervention and education, many of these behaviours can be unlearned as well.

This is not to suggest an individual acting on their own can change deeply ingrained patterns of abuse in a partner. However, pilot programs are developing across Canada that provide counselling and other services to men who identify as potential perpetrators of abuse. By examining the sources of their physically or emotionally violent patterns, these programs hope to rehabilitate participants to keep abuse from occurring. In London, ON, two such programs (Caring Dads and Changing Ways) have already launched and show positive signs of success.

There are valid concerns with focusing on men in discussions on gender-based violence. With shelters and other domestic abuse resources for women already chronically underfunded, it can be difficult to find the additional money to run unassociated programs. Yet for years, the numbers on gender-based violence have indicated that reactive measures don’t impact overall rates of violence and have a higher cost than these early counselling programs.

The impacts of gender-based violence are clear, but the solutions are more complicated. While our priority should always be supporting those experiencing abuse, there comes a time to consider how we, as a society, can use education and support services to ensure their safety is never at risk again. And perhaps with the wide adoption of school programs aimed at building healthier masculinities and counselling to those in need, we will see a time where no one is at risk in the first place.

To engage more deeply in the conversation, check out these articles and resources:

This Father’s Day, Shelter Movers Nova Scotia wishes to acknowledge some of the hardships that men face on the topic of abuse and intimate partner violence. It is important to note that women and girls are disproportionately affected by abuse and that the majority of our clients identify as female, however Shelter Movers mission is to serve all survivors of abuse, regardless of faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This blog is intended to recognize the lack of research, awareness, and support systems available to male survivors. 

Male survivors are subjected to unique vulnerabilities when they find themselves in an abusive relationship. This includes the misconception that men are always the perpetrators of intimate partner violence. While women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence, many studies fail to recognize different types of abuse, resulting in underrepresentation of male experiences. Limitations like vague terms and misspecifications in these studies render male survivors less visible in statistics. For so many male survivors, there are multiple reasons they would hesitate to come forward, including:

  • The fear of not being taken seriously
  • The belief that police cannot do anything
  • Shame

What No one Sees:

 Unfortunately, men do not often fit into women’s services and it becomes extremely difficult for men to find support or emergency housing, especially to do so with their children. Shelter Movers is the only service of its kind in Canada – supporting survivors of abuse transition to a better, safer life. We believe that it is important to recognize and bring awareness to the fact that many men, some of whom are fathers, experience  different types of abuse. Though the most commonly recognized form of abuse is physical, men can also be subjected to sexual, psychological, financial, and legal/administrative abuse. 

 

Legal/administrative abuse is the use of systems, such as family court and police intervention to harm their partner. This is characterized by false allegations, or “withholding contact from children, manipulation of parental relationship, and even using the child themselves as a vehicle for abuse”. 

 

Women that perpetrate abuse may take advantage of the fact that police and judicial systems view domestic incidents through a gendered lens, and often assume men are the perpetrators. Cases in which abuse affects men’s relationship with their children and/or they fear losing them if they leave are shown to have a significant impact on mental health. It contributes to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts. On top of these emotional barriers, men sometimes feel they cannot leave their abusive partner due to their controlling of finances, or if they don’t believe they can support their children on their own.  

Society’s Perception of Men Experiencing Abuse

Male survivors’ hesitation to report their significant other can stem from multiple negative societal attitudes and expectations of what it means to be a “man”. The notion that men are supposed to be strong, stoic, and in control of emotions impacts the way they view themselves and renders it difficult for them to recognize their situation as abuse. Many fathers cannot or do not want to believe that they are experiencing abuse.

Unfortunately, due to society’s perception that female perpetrated violence is not as serious, it takes a long time for men to share their experience, if they do at all. Men often do not feel comfortable sharing their experiences of abuse with family or friends, as their responses reflect these negative attitudes. 

Take for instance, the infamous Depp V. Heard trial. The media coverage of the trial was toxic and negatively impacts survivors’ willingness  to come forward (for both men and women). This case highlighted bidirectional violence, an issue that is largely neglected in conversations about intimate partner violence. It occurs when a person in the relationship reports both perpetrating and experiencing violence.” The trial also sparked a lot of controversy, stemming from claims that Heard hitting Depp would not be abuse because he has more power than her, physically and financially. This reflects a common  belief that men cannot be subjected to abuse, which is false and extremely harmful. Some men who experience abuse feel as though no one will believe their disclosure, especially if they are physically bigger or stronger than their partner. 

The Issue of Resources

There is very little understanding and empathy in the general population and in service provision for men who are survivors of abuse or intimate partner violence. Men who experience abuse are often invisible statistically and therefore are not adequately cared for. Due to gaps in research, there is a lack of professional training for supporting BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, which is based on the overwhelming feedback that treatment is currently administered through a gendered, heterosexual-oriented lens. In order to work towards preventing any and all forms of domestic violence, it is important to ensure that we, as a society, move away from heteronormative frameworks and focus on why instances of abuse are happening in the first place, regardless of one’s gender or sexuality. Community organizations and support systems need to become more inclusive and sensitive to the unique experiences of all socio-demographic groups. 

Resources for Men in Nova Scotia:

This post is to acknowledge that more awareness and support are needed for men who are experiencing intimate partner or gender-based violence.  

The following are some resources available to male identifying individuals in Nova Scotia if they are experiencing any kind of abuse, though if anyone is in immediate danger, they should call 911.

Call 211 to be directed to the Men’s Helpline. 

Shelters: 

HRM: 

Annapolis Valley:

South Shore: 

Counseling/Support/legal Services: 

Making the decision to leave an abusive situation can be hard, but figuring out how to leave can be even harder. If you’re thinking of leaving an abusive relationship or know someone who needs help, there are local Indigenous-focused programs that can help. Check out the list below for free or low-cost assistance with housing, legal services, counseling and more: 

Aboriginal Mother Centre Society: Located in the east end of Vancouver, this society serves to address the needs of Indigenous women while providing counseling, advocacy, education, and other social supports. Some of the services the Aboriginal Mother Centre Society offers are:

  • Transformational Housing: Offers 16 newly renovated suites for women and up to three of their children under the age of nine who are at risk of homelessness or child welfare intervention. 
  • Family Wellness Program: Available through Transformational Housing, this program gives women the skills they’ll need when they transition out through workshops on parenting, housing and resources, self-care, and other life skills.
  • Licensed Daycare: Staffed by experienced and qualified Early Childhood Educators with a focus on Indigenous culture, values, tradition, and language. Children of all backgrounds are welcome.
  • Homelessness Outreach: Designed to support Indigenous individuals and families at risk of/experiencing homelessness seek further employment or education. This program provides assistance by helping search for housing and offering resources for mental health and addiction counseling. 

The Indigenous Community Legal Clinic – Peter A. Allard School of Law, UBC

  • Legal Assistance: The Indigenous Community Legal Clinic provides free legal services to the Indigenous community as well as legal education to Allard School of Law students. Open from 8:30AM – 12:30PM and 1:30PM – 4:30PM daily, the Clinic aims to provide advice, assistance, and representation on issues including (but not limited to) family law matters and child protection to eligible clients who cannot afford a lawyer and who self-identify as Indigenous persons.

Helping Spirit Lodge Society: HSLS addresses the issues of Indigenous family violence in the Greater Vancouver community by providing several different housing options as well as therapeutic services such as counseling.

Housing programs include:

  • Journey Home Program: A range of services to help individuals and families access and maintain permanent housing. Once housing is obtained, this program provides wrap-around services including emergency living expenses and housing support funds, community connections, one-on-one case management, and more.
  • Spirit Lodge Transition House: A 10-bed transition house that can accommodate women and their children for up to 30 days. The lodge is a safe space free of drugs or alcohol, staffed 24 hours, and provides non-judgmental support from Indigenous women as well as referrals to specialized counseling and addiction treatment.
  • Spirit Way: A second stage housing program with 14 fully-furnished units where women and children can stay for up to 18 months. While fostering a safe environment, Spirit Way encourages women’s independence through supportive programming which helps residents gain skills and confidence.
  • Kingsway Sierra: A 36-unit mixed market rental facility at Kingsway and Dumfries with priority social housing for Indigenous women at risk of homelessness.

Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW): Trauma-informed feminist support for people experiencing sexualized violence. Services are open to people of marginalized genders, including cis and transwomen, Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary people. Programs offered by WAVAW are free and confidential, including:

  • Indigenous Counselling:  WAVAW’s Indigenous Counselling Program provides one-to-one counselling for Indigenous people of marginalized genders, including trans and cis women, as well as trans, non-binary, and Two Spirit people seeking health, wellness, and safety. Counseling incorporates Aboriginal healing approaches and traditions based on the Medicine Wheel, which focus on spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance.

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre: A safe space in the Downtown Eastside exclusively for self-identified women and their children. The Centre addresses immediate and crisis needs, such as food, clothing, toiletries, toilet and showers, first aid, computer and phone access, and more. 

  • Indigenous Women’s Project: 70% of the women accessing the Centre’s services are Indigenous – that’s why this program works with women to develop and implement cultural, recreational, social, and Indigenous educational activities. Offering activities such as Indigenous plant walks, outings and counseling for Indigenous women, the project provides emotional support to women dealing with residential school trauma, cultural isolation, racism, and violence.

About Shelter Movers

Shelter Movers provides no-cost moving and storage services to people leaving violence. By working with local businesses like trunk rental companies, storage facilities, and private security firms, Shelter Movers takes care of financial and safety needs that arise when moving.

Shelter Movers serves clients who have either found a space in a shelter or who are already living in a shelter or safe home. 

For those who don’t have a place to go yet, please contact the local support line for BC at 211.

For those who have a shelter space, have the shelter contact Shelter Movers at info@sheltermovers.com or 855-203-6252 and include a call back number for a referral to discuss move needs.

Learn more about the moving process here or check out our FAQ page.

If you are in immediate danger, dial 911 or your local police service now.

*Trigger Warning: This article contains information regarding the treatment of Indigenous peoples in residential schools and discusses femicide and sexual assault*

Last year, we talked about the  whether or not to celebrate Canada Day, and why for many, it’s not a day for celebration. Additionally, we discussed the disproportionate rates at which Indigenous women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual violence. It’s important to discuss IPV through an intersectional lens, as the barriers in which some groups face when it comes to leaving abuse, or accessing support, can vary greatly.

Land Acknowledgement

Before we continue, it is important to take some time to acknowledge the land on which we live on. This article is written on land which is the traditional, unceded, unsurrendered Territory of the Algonquin Anishinabek people, whose presence here reaches back to time immemorial. We are grateful to have the opportunity to be present on this territory. For those of us who are settlers on this land it is incredibly important to not only acknowledge this, but to commit to continued learning and to be allies to the Algonquin Anishinabek people. It is also important to understand that colonialism and patriarchy are inexplicably linked. As a result, we cannot combat violence against women without acknowledging these connections.

If you are curious about your local Indigenous history, you can visit native-land.ca.  

In this article, we are going to touch on the Highway of Tears, the lasting impact that colonialism has had on the frequency with which Indigenous women experience violence, and the initiatives created by the Canadian Government in an attempt to examine and prevent this violence.

Indigenous Women are Disproportionately Affected by Violence

At Shelter Movers Ottawa, our mission is to support, help, and believe survivors of abuse. It is essential to talk about and recognize the reality that Indigenous women are disproportionately impacted by IPV and sexual violence. A Statistics Canada report published in 2021 found that 44% of Indigenous women have experienced sexual or physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime, compared to 25% of non-Indigenous women. Additionally, 86% of 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous women experienced IPV within their lifetime than non-2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous women (59%). 74% of Indigenous women with a disability experienced IPV in their lifetime compared to 46% of Indigenous women without a disability. However, it is important to keep in mind that IPV and sexual violence only make up part of the picture when discussing the violence Indigenous women face. 

The Highway of Tears

A poignant example of the disproportionate rates by which Indigenous women and girls experience violence is the “Highway of Tears”. For some context, the Highway of Tears is a stretch of 725 km along Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert, B.C. Between 1989 and 2006, nine women went missing or were found murdered along this stretch of highway. All of the women, except for one, were Indigenous. 

In 2005, Project E-PANA was launched by the RCMP. It was created after the “E” Divisions Criminal Operations called for the review of a series of unsolved murders that were linked to the Highway of Tears. The purpose of this initiative was to determine if a serial killer or killers are responsible for murdering young women along major highways in B.C. Originally, Project E-PANA focused on nine cases; however, this was expanded to eighteen cases in 2007. The cases are broken down into thirteen homicide investigations and five missing persons investigations. Project E-PANA has not taken on any new cases since 2006, despite the ongoing violence that Indigenous women face along the Highway of Tears. 

The Highway of Tears is merely a glimpse into the disproportionate violence Indigenous women face. In 2013, the RCMP launched a study of reported ​​incidents of missing or murdered Indigenous women across Canada. This review examined 1,017 cases of homicides and 164 cases of missing Indigenous women. As of 2016, Indigenous people made up 4.9% of the population, yet Indigenous women—as of 2013—made up 11.3% of the total number of missing women in Canada. Clearly indicating that Indigenous women are overrepresented as femicide victims in Canada. 

The Legacy of Colonialism: Intergenerational Trauma

It is important to highlight the connection between intergenerational trauma and the rates at which Indigenous women experience violence. For those of you who might not be too familiar with the concept of intergenerational trauma, let’s break it down. According to a Canadian Encyclopedia article entitled “Intergenerational Trauma and Residential Schools”, intergenerational trauma, also understood as historical trauma, occurs when trauma caused by historical oppression is passed down from generation to generation. 

Residential “schools” are an essential element to understanding the significance of intergenerational trauma. As indicated by the Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, residential “schools” were created “for the purpose of separating Aboriginal children from their families, in order to minimize and weaken family ties and cultural linkages, and to indoctrinate children into a new culture—the culture of the legally dominant Euro-Christian Canadian society”. Residential “schools”, the Sixties Scoop, and the “Indian Act” are all institutions that were used in the pursuit of this goal. Moreover, these institutions are directly involved in the creation of intergenerational trauma. Many children at residential “schools” experienced psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. This abuse in many cases, resulted in long-term psychological challenges such as anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD, and high rates of suicide.

According to a Statistics Canada article released in 2021, the historical context surrounding the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada has directly contributed to the creation of socioeconomic and health inequalities. Additionally, research has shown that women who experience abuse in childhood frequently go on to experience intimate partner violence. In essence, exposure to violence (sexual or physical) as a child may increase the risk of IPV later in life through the creation of an environment that depicts violence as a normal means of resolving conflict. The trauma and abuse that Indigenous children experienced at residential “schools” is well documented. As a result, it is suggested that the enduring negative effects of residential “schools”, historical trauma, discrimination, and violence may increase the likelihood that Indigenous women and children experience IPV. 

Barriers to Accessing Support

It is important to recognize that there are also barriers to accessing services that may impact the likelihood of Indigenous women becoming survivors of IPV. These factors can include but are not limited to: limited access to housing due to remote geographic locations, which makes it exceedingly difficult to leave one’s abuser; higher availability of weapons; limited access to legal services; limitations on maintaining confidentiality in reports of abuse, and; social, cultural, and psychological isolation. These factors combine to create a particularly dangerous situation for Indigenous women that differs from the experiences of non-Indigenous women.

Within this backdrop, we can begin to understand the rates at which Indigenous women and girls experience violence.

Learn more

If you like listening to podcasts and are interested in learning more about this particular issue, CBC has an excellent podcast that delves into the case of Alberta Williams and Cleo, two young women who went missing and were murdered. This podcast does an excellent job of explaining the context surrounding these cases. Trigger warning, the podcast does go into incredible detail surrounding the circumstances of each woman’s death. 

CBC also has been conducting research surrounding missing and murdered women in Canada. You can learn about almost every case that has occurred in Canada, regardless of the outcome, on their website. It also includes a comprehensive list of the victims’ names, the circumstances surrounding each case, and the status of the case when known.

Get to know our regional partner, Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC)

At Shelter Movers Waterloo Region, we work with a number of partner organizations to support families experiencing abuse throughout the region.

One such partner organization is the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), whose mission is based on using an intersectional feminist approach to transform systems that promote gender-based violence. 

Below, Nicky Carswell, Coordinator, Anti-Human Trafficking, shares more about SASC and the importance of working with Shelter Movers.

Can you share a little bit about SASC’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program?

Utilizing a trauma-informed, harm reduction, and feminist approach, our specialized Anti-Human Trafficking Program provides wrap-around services to those experiencing sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and those who are at risk within Waterloo Region. Services are free, confidential, and non-judgmental. This program is accessible to all genders ages 12 and up and is available regardless of immigration status.

Our services include counselling, crisis intervention, case management, safety planning, system navigation, advocacy, practical assistance, and housing, employment, legal, immigration, and education support, as well as connections to other resources, public education and outreach.  We also provide temporary counselling support to families and loved ones of survivors.

Since 2018, we have supported 240 folks; 50 per cent are children under 18 and 75 per cent  are youth 24 and under.

 

How have you partnered with Shelter Movers on this initiative?

Our team connects with Shelter Movers when a survivor is moving into a new home. Throughout their experience of exploitation, many of our survivors are isolated from loved ones and supports, experience complex trauma, and are fearful moving forward from their situation. We are incredibly grateful for a program such as Shelter Movers to provide this much needed service when folks do not have other options for moving support. 

What are some of the successes achieved through this program?

Survivors are often overwhelmed with moving into their own home and fearful of their transition from high levels of control to independence. The staff and volunteers at Shelter Movers have been very understanding and accommodating which has had a positive impact. Survivors who have accessed this service report kindness, compassion, and that they actually had fun during the move. Wrapping survivors with warm, meaningful support is critical for empowering survivors and increasing success. 

Shelter Movers is looking forward to planning Take Back the Night with SASC later this year. Can you share a little bit about the importance of this event?

Take Back the Night is an annual event in support of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Started in the 1970’s in the United States, the March has become a global phenomenon. Each September we gather in downtown Kitchener to stand in solidarity with survivors and advocate for a community free from violence. Please come out, join us, and show your support for survivors of sexual violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Shelter Movers, WE APPRECIATE YOU! 

(We echo the above sentiment and are so grateful for SASC’s ongoing support!)

What started out as one man working in the long distance moving industry and organizing labour for drivers nationwide, has become a full service moving business. Whether you are moving locally in the Halifax area, or within the Maritimes, Maritime Professional Movers will help make sure your move with them is affordable and stress-free. 

Supporting our Clients

Maritime Professional Movers has been a partner of ours since the Nova Scotia chapter launched in the Summer of 2019. The values shared by Ryan, President of Maritime Professional Movers, and his team made the decision of partnering with the company very easy. As a charitable organization, Shelter Movers provides moving and storage services at no cost to people who are fleeing from abuse. Similar to Maritime Professional Movers, we believe in removing the financial and logistical barriers our clients face when fleeing their abuser. 

Moving is complicated and stressful at the best of times, but even more so when you are needing to leave an abusive situation quickly. As a company, we were always interested in doing charitable moves for those most in need. When we heard that Shelter Movers was opening a local branch in Halifax, we knew that it was the perfect opportunity. It's a rare thing to be able to use your skilled professional abilities to give back to your community and that is exactly what we are able to do here.

Ryan Aspinall, President Maritime Professional Movers Inc.

Being a volunteer-powered organization that serves the Halifax Regional Municipality, the South Shore, and the Annapolis Valley can pose some challenges, specifically when it comes to larger moves and moves that are outside our service area. Another challenge is the lack of affordable housing in Nova Scotia due to the housing crisis. When leaving their abuser, individuals can oftentimes be forced to look for housing and accommodation outside of their community. Thanks to Maritime Professional Movers, we are able to help our clients relocate to areas outside of Shelter Movers’ normal service area if needed. Even during the strictest of COVID-19 lockdowns, Maritime Professional Movers was able to move one of the clients to a different province, where she was able to receive comfort and care from her family.

Having completed Shelter Movers’ trauma-informed training, Ryan’s team at Maritime Professional Movers is prepared to help survivors of abuse with their moving needs. When we work with them, their professionalism and skill level takes our service to the next level.

 

While we enjoy being directly involved in helping to move someone on to new beginnings in a safe environment personally, we can't do it all ourselves, and certainly don't! Shelter Movers has amassed a great many individual volunteers from the community who want to help make a difference for the very same reason we do. However, this type of work can be very tough to jump into. It has been our privilege to be able to offer Mover/Driver training sessions to help our fellow volunteers conduct these moves in an efficient and safe manner with tips and tricks aimed at ensuring a successful day.

Ryan Aspinall, President Maritime Professional Movers Inc.

Supporting our Volunteers

Mover and Driver Training is an event that’s open to all volunteers at Shelter Movers Nova Scotia. Four times per year, staff from Maritime Professional Movers volunteer their time to teach volunteers how professional movers handle tricky situations. The training includes skills like picking up heavy items without injuring yourself, turning tight corners with large items, and many more. Each training session is customized to address questions or concerns that volunteers provide in advance. Thanks to the supportive and skilled team at Maritime Professional Movers, our volunteers can walk away from the training session feeling prepared to handle whatever obstacles they may face on moving day. 

Learning from the professionals makes you a stronger volunteer.

Colleen, Volunteer Mover and Driver

The Mover and Driver training day is divided into two sections. First, the team at Maritime Professional Movers teaches volunteers tips and tricks for moving. Afterwards, volunteers are encouraged to stay for the Driver training session. Driver training is where those interested in becoming a volunteer truck driver for Shelter Movers Nova Scotia are given a safe environment to learn or practice maneuvering a 16 foot long cube truck.

If you are a volunteer with Shelter Movers Nova Scotia and want to improve your moving and driving skills, you can sign up for one or more of the following training sessions that are being hosted by Maritime Professional Movers. Upcoming training dates include June 12, August 28, November 27, 2022, and February 26, 2023. 

Nisa Homes opened its first transition house seven years ago with a mission to “create the opportunity of ‘home’ for domestic abuse violence survivors across Canada.” A project of the National Zakat Foundation, the organization provides shelter to women and their children fleeing violence. [Zakat, meaning “to cleanse,” is one of the five pillars of Islam – it’s a mandatory charitable contribution and religious duty for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth to help the needy.]

There are now eight Nisa Homes transition houses located in BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, with two more currently in the planning stages. Located in residential neighbourhoods, the homes are run by multi-lingual staff and volunteers, have an average capacity of 12-14 clients, and provide a supportive environment for Muslim women who don’t always feel comfortable in other shelters due to Islamaphobia and a general lack of knowledge of Islamic practices.

Nisa Homes’ shelters are specifically designed to provide a supportive environment for Muslim women to practice as they wish. As Syma Nehal, Regional Manager for Nisa Homes Vancouver, explains, “we offer [clients] prayer areas, books, and other materials.” While Nisa’s programs are catered towards immigrant, refugee, and Muslim women, the organization’s services are accessible to non-Muslim women as well. “We don’t have any expectations of anyone practicing – we wouldn’t even ask – you do whatever you’re comfortable with and know that you’re in a respectful environment,” says Nehal.

In addition to providing shelter, Nisa Homes (“nisa” means “women” in Arabic) also supports off-site clients, such as families with children as well as single women, who need services other than housing. These range from case management (one-on-one support for clients to secure income, employment, and housing) and financial assistance, to mental health counselling and spiritual support. Nehal notes that a growing number of clients are refugee claimants due to immigration rules changing in the United States and, more recently, the Afghan refugee crisis last fall.

A Local and National Partnership

Shelter Movers provides an average of two moves a month for Nisa Homes Vancouver. When asked how Nisa clients moved their belongings before the partnership, Nehal is blunt. “They didn’t,” she replies, explaining that few, if any, clients can afford to hire a moving company. There is not much in terms of a government subsidy to help fund their move, leaving clients with no other option than to take as much as they can over public transit or in taxis.

Shelter Movers is a very specific, very special service – it’s one of a kind and I truly feel that if we didn’t have Shelter Movers we are lost in that category.

Syma Nehal, Regional Manager for Nisa Homes Vancouver

This is a partnership that continues to grow on both a local and a national level; every time the two national organizations open a new chapter in the same city, a local partnership blossoms. Currently that translates into five local partnerships which Yael Schwarz, Shelter Movers’ National Operations Director, describes as being a “hybrid of a national and local relationship.” She explains the process to set up each new partnership isn’t always the same: “for example, in Ottawa, Vancouver, and soon in Halifax, I’ve reached out to my national contact at Nisa to set up a partnership by asking to introduce our local team to theirs, whereas in Montreal they reached out to us on their own with a referral for a client before we had the chance to formally establish the relationship.” 

“Our Mantra is Empowerment”

With clients limited to a three-month maximum stay and a perpetually tight rental market, the search to find a permanent home, or at least second-stage housing, starts before the client even arrives. “We’ve already narrowed down the budget before [the client] gets here,” notes Nehal. Once clients leave, they can continue to access services for another six months. Nehal emphasizes the importance of helping a client become self-sufficient. That assistance is personalized based on each client’s specific needs and can include everything from learning how to use the transit system to opening a bank account. Most importantly, the client learns how to access resources on her own. “Our mantra is empowerment,” Nehal says. “We don’t want to do everything for clients because they’ll be lost when they leave.”

To illustrate this, Nehal tells the story of a female refugee from a war-torn country who arrived in Canada with shrapnel still lodged in her eye and arm, speaking not a word of English. Initially Nisa Homes Vancouver was only asked to assist with some translation services, but as the woman felt comfortable with Nisa staff and the Vancouver location had space available, she requested a move there. As the woman’s caseworker, Nehal recalls using strategies such as Google Translate and hand gestures to overcome the language barrier and help her client navigate the complex logistics of medical appointments, eye surgery and a difficult recovery. As it turned out, one of the Nisa volunteers spoke the woman’s language and stepped up to provide crucial support. The client recovered, conquered her extreme anxiety, located housing and employment, and learned a new language. “She made it,” says Nehal. “She was able to create a life for herself.”

Nisa Homes truly fills a critical niche in the gender-based violence sector by providing a safe haven and support for women and their families fleeing domestic violence, poverty or seeking asylum. To learn more, visit their website.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and what better way to honour and celebrate your own mom than by also supporting a survivor of abuse make it to safety with her belongings and dignity intact.

This year, Shelter Movers Ottawa is involved with two pretty amazing local organizations that are supporting us this Mother’s Day.

We’ve partnered with Good Grazes, who’s curated a Mother’s Day gift bundle including goodies from four other local, women-owned businesses!

In each box you’ll find a soft luxury spa headband by Deedee + Me, a ready-to-bake cookie mix in a jar by Just About Right, an adorable succulent houseplant from Amy’s Little Plant Shop, and a handmade fizzy bath bomb by Jenn & Jenn Shop, as well as a Good Grazes’ Brunch grazing box!

On the Saturday and Sunday, Good Grazes will be offering both pick up and delivery.

For every box purchased, Shelter Movers Ottawa will receive $10. Support local this Mother’s Day while supporting us to help women fleeing to safety. Order by May 4th to get your bundle!

Atletico Ottawa is supporting us on their Mother’s Day Match on May, 7th!

There’s no substitute for spending quality time together. Bring your mom and be sure to take advantage of their special BOGO (buy one, give one to mom) offer!

We’ll be there at TD Place, so be sure to drop by, say hi, and enter to win a signed team jersey.

Special shoutout to the team members who joined us on a move last week!

You can also donate on behalf of your mom; a $240 donation provides free moving and storage services for a woman fleeing violence. We’re moving an average of 20 families per month in Ottawa. Just $20 a month will ensure you help a family to safety each year.

In the last several years, Waterloo Region has been one of the fastest growing regions in Ontario, largely due to the region offering residents a high quality of life and relatively low cost of living. However, as the region continues to grow exponentially, it’s becoming increasingly expensive and many residents are being priced out of their homes.

It’s estimated that the region is 800 affordable homes short and a recent report by the Region of Waterloo shows that homelessness has increased dramatically over the last three years, with over 1,000 residents currently without a place to call home.

Our role in supporting our clients during the housing crisis

At Shelter Movers, we provide support throughout our clients’ entire journey to find suitable housing. This has been especially crucial over the last year due to current housing shortages; we routinely provide longer-term storage solutions to the families that we support.

This means that if a client needs to temporarily move to a shelter or a friend’s house, we help them transition through multiple moves to ensure they don’t have to stay in an unsafe home until they have a permanent home. This has been especially challenging lately though because shelters in the region are generally full.

Above all, we recognize that in many situations, our clients can’t take all of their belongings to a temporary home. We want to ensure that they don’t have to deal with the financial burden of starting over.

How you can help

Volunteer with us

We are always looking for passionate volunteers who are looking to make a difference in the lives of those experiencing gender-based violence in Waterloo Region.

View our current postings here.

Host an event

Do you have an event in mind that you’d like to direct funds raised to help benefit Shelter Movers? Whether it’s virtual, in-personal, or even a personal challenge such as a walk or marathon, we’d love to hear your ideas! Learn more.

Scroll to Top

There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available, but the majority have suffered alteration in some form, by injected humour, or randomised words which don’t look even slightly believable. If you are going to use a passage of Lorem Ipsum, you need to be sure there isn’t anything embarrassing hidden in the middle of text.