REBUILD A STABLE LIFE IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
After having to resort to an emergency shelter or undergoing a major life challenge, it is not easy to rebuild your life, nor does it happen overnight. Housing Services provide a safe living environment and allows women to take the time they need to reclaim a stable life at the Residence and then move towards independent housing.
244 women (on their own, with children or families) benefited from the help and support provided by our housing services.
The distress and anxiety brought about by the health crisis and increased media coverage about cases of domestic violence greatly affected the course of women in search of improving their well-being through our reintegration program. Furthermore, for many of these women, the shortage of affordable housing delayed the opportunity of returning to a stable place of their own.
We had to adapt our intervention methods to meet health standards, all while maintaining a continuous human presence for the residents and tenants, who were in even greater need of a person to reassure and help them.
The vulnerability of women in violent situations was exacerbated globally by social distancing measures, isolation, remote working, the spike in housing prices and the lack of available spaces in emergency housing resources. For women affected by COVID, the situation was even more complex. To meet these acute needs, we received funding from the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund as well as from the Secrétariat à la Condition Féminine and the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, and we concluded collaboration agreements with the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de l’Île-de-Montréal.
We also revisited and expanded our intervention practices towards women who are victims and survivors of domestic violence and who live at the intersection of other vulnerability contexts, including immigration, homelessness and mental health. We were also able to expand and adapt our services to accommodate, among others, women and their children affected by COVID and needing emergency housing, all while safely isolating themselves. Lastly, we provided temporary housing for women and their families awaiting housing. They were thus able to find a safe space where they could settle, and find help and support in their search for a long-term solution.
These services were made possible through the hiring of rotating intervention workers, allowing us to extend our hours of service over the evening and weekends. Together with the residential services team, they made it possible for us to provide in-person support and help 24-7, in collaboration with our cross-sectoral partners. This was team work in the true sense of the word!
Gender inequalities are particularly pronounced when it comes to safety and affordable housing. Women face a multitude of issues that can endanger their survival as well as that of their children, as illustrated by the information below.
In the last count of visible homelessness in Montreal, womenrepresented 24% of those counted.1 This figure does not take into account hidden homelessness, which is characteristic of women’s homelessness: staying with friends, family, strangers in exchange for sexual services, etc. Among women experiencing homelessness, indigenous and immigrant women are over-represented and the latter are most frequently accompanied by their children.
From 73% to 81% of homeless women are or have been victims of psychological, sexual, or domestic violence, according to Canada-wide statistics.2 The Pandemic intensified this violence, as the deserted roads and closed stores provided few opportunities to escape this violence.
SOS violence conjugale received 7,000 more calls in 2020-2021 than in 2019-2020.3 Emergency shelters for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence were also in greater demand and nearly 15,000 requests for shelter had to be declined in Quebec 4, due to a lack of availability. Last but not least, a survey indicated that 50% of the violence suffered by women admitted in 2020 was more serious than usual.
The percentage of mood and anxiety disorders is significantly higher in women than in men.5 Physical or sexual abuse during childhood is a major risk factor, as is neglect, domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking. Other risk factors include a low level of education, low income, job insecurity, single parenthood, and immigrant or refugee status.
In addition, poverty is one of the strongest indicators of an increase, worsening, and persistence of mental health problems in the population; and statistics show that women, especially single mothers and seniors, are among the poorest in society.6
In June 2019, housing vacancy rates reached 1.9% in Montreal, and 0.8% for units having three bedrooms or more. This situation particularly affects women, as they are responsible for more than half the rental households, and they head more than 80% of single-parent families.
Furthermore, Montreal is especially affected by the highrents: a 4 ½ unit costs an average of $1,317 per month and large units are around $1,563.7 Poorer than men, it is not surprising that women are almost five times more women spend more than 30% of their income on housing than men do.8
Thanks to weekly psychosocial counselling and a vast array of personal development workshops, talks and activities provided by a team of multidisciplinary therapists, residents can regain control of their lives at their own pace, and work towards more autonomy in stable lodgings. Community support in housing projectsand external consultations make it possible to consolidate and maintain this stability and independence and ensure that it is long-lasting.
Emergency housing services for women affected by COVID were offered, as well as temporary housing for families waiting for a home.
34 rooms are offered as part of our social reintegration program, along with weekly psychosocial counselling.
The number of women being accommodated is lower than in previous years because during the three waves of the pandemic, we had to put a stop to new admissions to avoid outbreaks.
Average length of stay: 5-and-a-half months
A 6-month transitional follow-up period offered to women who have left The Residence. This support is essential as it ensures housing stability, the prevention and reduction of hospitalizations, and the long-term autonomy of the women we help.
Les Jardins du Y
21 apartments and community support.
The Jardins du Y can accommodate non-status women and female students, who are more susceptible to homelessness as they are not eligible for affordable, subsidized housing. Three women in this situation benefited from safe and affordable housing.
Occupancy rate: 100%.
59 apartments with community support (16 of which are reserved for YWCA residents). These apartments are managed in partnership with the Brin d’Elles corporation and are in three locations (Saint-Michel, Saint-Laurent and Villeray).
Occupancy rate: 100%.
The notable crisis brought about by the lack of affordable, sanitary and safe housing gave rise to great need and caused much incertitude among numerous families starting in July. We transformed our spaces so that women and their families could settle, feel safe and buy some time in their search for a stable and safe place to live.
Their average length stay was around 3 months.
COVID Emergency Housing
We launched a red zone specifically designed to accommodate any women and their children suffering from COVID and in need of emergency housing due to, among others, domestic or family violence.
Stability and Autonomy
Of the 23 women who have left The Residence, 20 women have found a stable place to live (6 of whom live in our housing projects).