Testominial from Ese
“The Welcome Centre makes you feel like you belong somewhere and are a part of something.”
“I never thought I would be in this situation but life happens” states Ese who feels that it was only by God’s grace that she made it to the Welcome Centre late one October evening in 2010. She was previously living in Hay River Ontario, and had to leave everything behind when she made the long trek to Windsor. Her uncle had sent her some money to get to Windsor but when she arrived at the bus station there was not enough. Ese says the bus driver took one look at her and told her to get on. When she arrived in Windsor she went to the YMCA where a worker there made some phone calls to find her somewhere to stay. The last call was to the Welcome Centre. Without any money, food, or belongings Ese made her way to the shelter. Meanwhile, at the shelter there was only one bed available which was meant for someone else. However, when she got to the door she was welcomed in.
Reflecting on her stay Ese states, “The Welcome Centre makes you feel like you belong somewhere and are a part of something.” While at the shelter the staff assisted her in finding housing by showing her how to navigate the system, which she describes as “so efficient.” Ese says, “I was asked what I needed and they helped me find it. If I had to do it all on my own I would have been lost.” The Welcome Centre gave me the building blocks to get back on my feet.” Without many belongings upon her arrival, Ese was able to get clothing, food, hygiene products and other household items to get her started in her new place. After getting housed, Ese wanted to give back, she volunteered in the Food Bank for six months until she found a job. Currently, Ese is working part time and is living in the same place she found while at the shelter.
Meet Whitney Murphy: A Success Story
“The Welcome Centre gave me so much and I love going back and seeing new people there and helping them.”
Whitney Murphy never imagined she would find herself in a women’s shelter. She had worked steadily for fourteen years. However, her work found her travelling a lot and she stayed in motels or bunked down with friendly strangers. Then when she decided she needed a change of career, she quickly ran out of money and did not have a permanent residence. When a friend heard of her dilemma, she recommended the Welcome Centre. “I wasn’t sure about this place for the first couple of days,” Whitney reports. “But after talking to the staff a couple of times and sitting back and watching people, I realized how things work a little more. I was used to being independent so I had to get accustomed to communal living.”
Whitney applied for geared-to-income housing and remains on their waitlist. She checked in regularly with staff about different housing options, as she did not know Windsor well and found a place to live quickly. However, on the evening before she was to move, the landlord called to tell her the agreement had fallen through.
“I was so disappointed because I had worked so hard but the people in the shelter were there to assure me that I was almost to my goal. I just had to keep going.”
Though there were bumps in the road, Whitney has now secured housing and is set to move out of the Welcome Centre. She states she is glad for her time here. “It made me a lot more aware of things about myself and about other people. I love to people watch and just observe others. I am more cognizant of parts of myself that I need to work on and areas that can help me move forward.”
If Whitney experiences more bumps in the road once she is in the community, she can access the Welcome Centre’s outreach social worker and drop-in program. The Welcome Centre has an outreach social worker to help women in the community sustain their current housing, as well as to help women who leave the shelter with referrals and access to other community resources.
A frequent visitor to the drop-in program, as well as a volunteer at many events and a newly appointed board member, Natalie St. Martin stayed at the Welcome Centre twice. Now in stable housing and rekindling a close relationship with her sister, Natalie feels it is important to give back to the shelter and the community.
“It makes me feel energized!” Natalie exclaims. “The Welcome Centre gave me so much and I love going back and seeing new people there and helping them.”
Community events and awareness are also a big part of Natalie’s life. “I was also a part of Take Back the Night this year and it was so empowering. I was on the committee that helped to plan the event and my sister sang that night. It was so personally touching and inspiring to see such a big turnout of strong women.”
And hopefully with their growing list of volunteers, former residents like Natalie and everything that happens at the Welcome Centre, people can continue to get support and have someone listen to them for years to come.