This story is from a Mission Services client who experienced domestic violence. Although, there is no graphic information, if this content is triggering for you, please skip pages 1 & 2.
Patty* came to Emma’s Place, Mission Services low barrier women’s shelter, after traveling down a long, dark road.
Patty was a successful woman by all standards. She went to university, she had a successful, six-figure career. She owned her own home and maintained it by herself. But one decision changed everything for her.
It all started several years ago when Patty and her partner moved into the dream home they built together. She was in the process of selling the home she independently owned when her partner started acting strange. Patty felt like she was witnessing some red flags.
“I was a hair away from calling my real estate agent and saying please take my house off the market and cutting my loses.”
But she didn’t listen to her gut. Her house sold and her partner became more abusive.
After one particularly violent evening that nearly cost Patty her life, her world started to crumble.
Her partner cut off their internet, he removed all receipts that proved that Patty had invested any money into the house they built together and he served her with assault charges, claiming he was the victim. Sadly, this is not an uncommon tactic in a domestic abuse situation.
“He sued me for the entire house, as well as all the belongings in it. My clothes, my furniture, everything. As well as all his legal costs.”
Over the next few years while Patty dealt with legal proceedings, she tried to maintain work and housing but the criminal charges made it difficult to find work and after living in multiple rentals she ended up back at home with her elderly mother.
“This [violence], the losing my job, I lost my house. I can’t tell you the amount of money it’s cost me income wise, the equity in my home. What I’ve pulled out of savings. I became a mess. I started self-medicating with alcohol.”
All this culminated with a falling out with her family. This is how Patty ended up at Emma’s Place.
“I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for Emma’s. This place saved my life.”
Emma’s Place provides emergency shelter to women accessing Mission Services’ Willow’s Place day program, offering 15 low barrier overnight beds to women and non-binary individuals. The average stay is 13 days, but people can stay up to 90 days, and in some circumstances longer.
“Many unhoused women have experienced the downward spiral of violence,” shared Jaclyn, Assistant Director of Outreach Programs for Women and Children. “They leave ‘stability’ with their partners to avoid further violence.”
Emma’s Place is a safe space for people like Patty.
“We know it’s not permanent housing but we want to make it feel home-like, so the women can be comfortable enough to drop their guards and allow us to support them,” said Jaclyn. “Maybe not every person is ready to be housed, but everyone deserves to be safe.”
When a woman comes to Emma’s they are connected to a Mission Services System Navigator who works with them to get all their documents in order, to navigate resources available in Hamilton and to assist with housing applications.
“The System Navigator tries to bring stability to their lives so that they can be ready to rent when an opportunity presents itself. Without them, a lot of these tasks would not happen as the women are facing physical and emotional barriers, and often do not have the capacity to tackle these tasks independently,” explained Lindsay, Manager of Community Services and Outreach Programs.
Once a person is housed, the System Navigator continues to support them, to ensure that individual remains housed.
“I’ve learned that [the clients at Emma’s Place] are treated as human beings and they’re given hope. The staff have been over the top supportive emotionally. They’re looking at people for who they are, not just the fact that they’re here,” said Patty.
Patty is working on maintaining a daily routine, getting her budgeting in order, and trying to find a place to bring home her babies…her dogs, who are in foster care.
From October 2021 to October 2022, Emma’s Place provided safe shelter to 226 individuals, some needing to return more than once.