YW Kitchener-Waterloo would like to see an end to homelessness in Waterloo Region. We’d like to see homeless shelters — including ours — put out of business.
But with more than 3,000 households in need of community housing and 1,600 households in need of supportive housing, we’re going to continue to see homelessness in our Region. And men and women and young people and families — particularly those with complex needs — are going to continue to need emergency shelter.
Life is precarious for those living in poverty. A balancing act. Keeping your housing. Feeding your kids. It’s like walking a tightrope. You never know when you’re going to fall off. For people living in poverty, emergency shelter is a safety net — the last hope — between them and living on the streets.
Can you imagine what it would be like to sleep on the streets? A coffee shop for heat and washroom facilities. A doorway for shelter. And not much sleep, with the need for continual watchfulness against physical or sexual assault.
Can you imagine what it would be like to call the streets home?
Everything in 23-year-old Caity’s life was broken.
Unwanted, unloved by parents who cared more for alcohol and drugs than their inconvenient child, physically abused by her mother, sexually abused by her father, Caity left home and school for the streets when she turned 14.
But there was no escape on the streets—alcohol, drugs, physical abuse, and sex work, to pay for what had become a serious drug addiction, dogged her there as they had at home.
The day she overdosed, she almost died. The doctors and nurses in emergency were less than sympathetic. Addict. Prostitute. She heard their judgments, even though they didn’t say the words. The next time, you might not be so lucky. She knew it, too. As a nine-year street survivor, as a woman with a serious drug dependency, she knew that her days on the streets were probably numbered.
When she was discharged from hospital, she went to the YW’s emergency shelter for women and families experiencing homelessness. She’d been there before. Many times. She’d come in to get warm, take a shower, get a decent meal, feel safe for a few days. But she’d always return to the streets.
This time, she knew she couldn’t. I’m going to die on the streets. When a YW staff member helped her to get into an addiction treatment program and helped her in her search for housing, her life began to change.
At the shelter, she wasn’t judged. At the shelter, she began to feel safe. At the shelter, she began to trust enough to share her life stories. At the shelter, she even began to feel cared for. And at the shelter, she found the courage to give herself a second chance.
At the shelter, not every story has a happy ending. But Caity’s does. She’s found housing, with the help of YW shelter staff, and kept it. And she’s been substance-free for the past four months. She wakes up every morning thinking, I’m not going to die on the streets!
Last year, the YW's emergency shelter served 547 people, including 150 children. But the YW’s emergency shelter funding has become increasingly precarious.
There have been progressive cuts in government funding in the past few years. There may be more ahead.
And the United Way has just announced a funding cut of 12.6%, adding more than $30,000 to a budget deficit. A funding loss we weren’t prepared for.
We’ve already cut out everything but necessities. We’ve already laid off all but essential staff. Today, we’re asking for your help in the fight against homelessness.
Can you help us raise $30,000 to keep the safety net of emergency shelter in place for another year?
Your support will make a difference. With thanks from the hundreds of women, children, and families who will need the safety net of emergency shelter this year.