This morning our Community Programs Manager, Leila Sarangi spoke at a City Hall press conference organized by Commitmement2Community (povertyreductionto.ca) to call out for real budget solutions rather than the cuts and fees, as proposed in the 2017 City Budget.
Leila talked about the impact high user fees and city service cuts has on women and children and our shock and disappointment that the City’s 2017 budget plan has no new investments in poverty reduction initiatives.
Read her full statement:
JULY 11, 2016
CITY HALL PRESS CONFERENCE: CLOSE THE FAIRNESS GAP
“Hello and good morning. My name is Leila Sarangi and I am the Community Programs Manager at Women’s Habitat of Etobicoke. We provide services to women and their dependents who have experienced violence, the vast majority of whom are living in poverty.
Over the past two years, through conversations that fed into the city’s consultation process, we spoke to over 2000 women across the city and heard clearly that the issues that need to be resolved to alleviate poverty are housing, jobs and childcare, in addition to other services including transit and recreation.
We also heard the City promise to implement the recommendations in these areas of their poverty reduction strategy when they unanimously adopted it last year.
So we were shocked and concerned when the City put forward a 2017 budget plan that considers a 2.6% cut across all divisions, with no new investments in poverty reduction initiatives and that pushes the implementation of any new revenue tools further down the road.
Statistics show that one in four Torontonians are poor. And to a great extent, when we talk about poverty in Toronto, we are talking about women’s poverty. With a persistent wage and income gap between women and men which is larger if she is racialized or indigenous, women are generally the poorest members of households, the poorest people in a neighbourhood, and the poorest citizens of a city. The recent revelation that Toronto has the highest child poverty rate in Canada is really an indicator of our city’s rate of poverty among mothers.
This budget plan will not be putting women or Torontonians on the path to prosperity.
Housing is a critical issue that we deal with on a daily basis. The lack of affordable and safe housing is the number one reason why women cannot leave abusive relationships, it’s why there are 175,000 people on the social housing waitlist, it is why our shelter system is backlogged. Without new investments, people will continue to struggle with precarious housing, homelessness, hunger. And this backlog will mean our emergency shelter system will continue to turn away 300 women and their children each night.
In this budget plan, people living on low-incomes will continue to struggle with rising transit fares, women will struggle with long commute times that make it difficult to drop off children and get to work on time and we have seen women lose jobs because of this. Women will continue to be unable go to work because they’re stuck on waitlists for affordable, local childcare, and because flexible childcare for those work outside of the traditional 9-5 hours just doesn’t exist.
We can look to examples outside of Toronto where investments into childcare directly led to broad economic returns in Quebec and have resulted in nearly equal workforce participation in Sweden’s proportional system.
This 2017 budget plan will not make this kind of difference. Instead, it will put low-income women and Torontonians further behind. Higher user fees and service cuts means the poorest in our communities will pay more and access less, we still won’t be addressing the City’s revenue problem, and the fairness gap between those who can afford to live in this city and those who face barriers to prosperity will continue to widen and polarize.
We urge the city to meaningfully close this fairness gap by implementing fair revenue tools and making real investments into the poverty reduction strategy in this coming budget. Thank you.”
For more information on how you can get involved in closing the fairness gap contact Leila at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was just a baby when we came to Women’s Habitat, but I’ve heard the story. That night you waited until he fell asleep and you wrapped me up, still sleeping, and quietly left. You were only 23; you must have been so scared. For years I didn’t want to hear about it, I didn’t want to think about what you’d been through. I picture you with me in your arms and a backpack on your shoulders stuffed with my clothes, my teddy bear and diapers. I still have that bear. You told me you had packed as much as you could for me because you were worried the shelter wouldn’t have anything, but when you arrived they gave you everything you needed for both of us.
You told me how you had planned your escape for weeks. How you’d left before but he had called crying, saying he would change and you went back. How you believed but him, but it only got worse.
You have never told me much about that part of your life, I know you are still trying to protect me, but you still talk about life at the shelter like it was yesterday. How the staff made your feel comfortable and the other moms were so welcoming and understanding. How when I was fussy they would take turns holding me. You knew that fateful night you had made the right decision when the woman on staff opened the door and said “I’m so happy you’re here, welcome”. You and I both slept so well that night in our little room with the bright blue walls.
Today I think about all you sacrificed for me. You have done so much for me mom, more than I will ever know. You always say that night we came to Women’s Habitat changed our lives; that it probably saved our lives. Mom, I could never re-pay you for what you’ve done for me, but this Mother’s Day I want to acknowledge your journey and how far we have come.
I love you mom.
For over 38 years Women’s Habitat has been providing shelter, support and safety to women and their children fleeing violence. This Mother’s Day, honour your mom by supporting a mom in need. Your gift provides a variety of supports, including long term housing assistance, safety planning and group and individual counselling for women and children. Your gift can save a life.
Our Outreach Centre at 140 Islington Ave. in the heart of South Etobicoke is getting a much needed MAKEOVER!
We are incredibly fortunate to have received funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services and a generous donation from The Geoffrey H. Woods Foundation to create a brand new beautiful kitchen to better serve our community.
This generous support couldn’t have come sooner. Every year we serve over 9,200 individual meals to our clients. These meals are at the centre of all of our programs and for some of our clients the only secure source of food in their day. As the number of clients we serve grew, we knew we needed a kitchen renovation in order to meet the need. Luckily our call was answered!
Not to worry, our programs and services are still available!
Our outreach counsellors are working out of our temporary location at JobStart, 2930 Lakeshore Blvd. West, located conveniently across the street from our centre. We have relocated our programs to LAMP CHC and St. Margaret’s Church and our Girlz Space program is operating out of the Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment. Click HERE for a full list of our programs and their locations.
We anticipate re-opening by the end of August. We are still available by phone at 416-252-7949 during business hours and our 24 hour crisis line is always available at 416-252-5829. If you have any questions, call us!
Be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for regular updates
Thank you for your support! We look forward to inviting you back to our beautiful new centre at the end of the summer!
Here are some of the questions we’ve received from our community. If your question isn’t answered here, email us at email@example.com and we will get back to you!
Who is Women’s Habitat?
Women’s Habitat is a social service agency, providing supports for women and their children who are survivors of violence.
I thought you were a shelter? What do you do at your outreach centre?
We opened the outreach centre in 2006 as a way to provide supportive services to women in the community. Services include drop-in programming, parenting support, housing assistance, support for women in transition, programming for teen girls and one-on-one counselling.
Didn’t you just renovate?
We renovated our emergency shelter which was in desperate need of repair. Thanks to a group of generous donors that renovation was completed and we re-opened our shelter in June 2015.
We hired an independent consultant to complete a needs assessment of our programs and services. The results from the assessment were clear: food security is a major obstacle for our outreach clients and the meals provided through our outreach programming reach far beyond sustenance. They are an opportunity to build and strengthen our client communities and provide a critical platform for peer support and engagement. Our agency serves on average 9,200 meals a year at our outreach centre and that number is steadily growing. We offer hot meals at every program and host on average 15-20 clients per program session.
Some of our clients have disclosed to us the meals offered are often the only secure source of food in their day. At the end of each session all leftover food is packed and offered to the participants. Many of our younger clients take it home to share with their families.
We are seeing an increase in the number of clients accessing our programs. We need this renovation to meet the increased need.
What’s wrong with the current kitchen you have?
Our current kitchen is too small and does not have the proper equipment needed to feed our clients. We need to make some major upgrades including a new sanitizer, increased food prep space, a commercial Grade A exhaust and fire suppression system, electrical and plumbing upgrades.
Do you have all the funding you need to renovate?
We have the funding to renovate the kitchen and we are currently looking to secure additional funds for some other much needed upgrades including upgrading the client washroom and storage facilities. We would like to complete all the renovations while we are closed and the kitchen renovation work is in progress. If you are interested in supporting the second phase of our renovation or want to help us spread the word, contract our Resource Manager Lina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you going to keep offering counselling and programs while you’re closed?
YES! We are temporarily located across the street from our centre at JobStart (2930 Lakeshore Blvd W.) and we are running our programs out of St. Margaret’s Church, LAMP CHC and the Jean Augustine Centre for Women’s Empowerment. Click HERE for full program and location.
How can I contact my counsellor/support worker?
Our phone line is still in operation! Call us during business hours at 416-252-7949. If you left a message on your counsellor’s voicemail they are checking them frequently. If you need immediate support after hours you can always call our 24 hour crisis line at 416-252-5829.
Are you still accepting donations?
In-kind donations will not be accepted until after we re-open. Monetary donations, gift cards and TTC tokens are always accepted! You can make a donation on this site or contact our Resource Manager Lina at email@example.com
Are you still looking for volunteers?
Yes! We are always looking for volunteers, in fact we have a volunteer info session coming up on April 30th! Contact Ursula at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.