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  • Writer's pictureInterval House of Ottawa

40 moments in 40 years

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

It's our 40th anniversary! Join us in remembering some of the special moments we've experienced since 1976.

1. In the early 1970s, a group of dedicated women are determined to open a house for women fleeing abuse where they can be safe and prepare to start an independent life, free from violence. The pursuit of IHO begins!

2. Our first home! On July 5, 1976 Interval House of Ottawa opens its doors in a small home on Elm Street. It is Ottawa's first shelter for women fleeing abuse.

3. Helen calls CAS. In the past, she had nowhere to go, but now CAS is working with the shelters in the city and finds her a safe place to go. Together, we're helping women find safety in Ottawa.

4. Residents are struggling to make Christmas special this year, so staff reach out to past donors in case they can help. We are overwhelmed by their response! The community bands together for the families staying with us, and it makes the holidays extra special!

5. Our Board of Directors now includes a designated seat for Ottawa Police Services. This helps to foster our partnership with the police while we work as allies helping the women experiencing violence in our community.

6. The province moves from per diem funding to annual budgets! Now we know we'll still operate tomorrow, next week, and next month. We have the stability to better focus on services and education about violence against women.

7. In August 1979 we move to a bigger space on Lebreton Street. It's close quarters and makes for cozy living space. In time, staff learn to use every bit of space wisely, including the storage closets that were converted into office space!

1979 Interval House of Ottawa

8. We've learned a lot about the significance of children who witness violence. With additional training, we now have Child & Youth Workers just to support the kids.

9. In collaboration between the Board of Directors and staff, the first IHO strategic plan is born! We have come together to determine the future direction for IHO and our goals for helping to end violence against women.

10. In December, Julia and her baby leave in a hurry and arrive at IHO without coats. We contact the Snowsuit Fund, who helps Julia find a snowsuit for the baby. Now they will be safe and warm all winter.

11. In 1995, IHO was on the brink of closure. We are rescued by Lyallen Hayes. With her restructuring, Lyallen brings stability, joy and music to the home.

12. We partner with Immigrant Women Services of Ottawa (IWSO) to access language interpreters when needed. It's important to hear a woman's story in her own words, and now she can also tell it in her own language.

13. The Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) is responding to women's needs beyond the shelter by creating a Transitional & Housing Support Program (THSP). This worker assist clients when applying for housing, and works with them over the next year to create a new life free of violence.

14. Sandra is ready to leave her abusive partner, but doesn't want to move into a shelter. Through her local community centre, Sandra meets with the THSP worker where she receives all the necessary tools and support to keep herself and her family safe while she finds alternative housing.

15. Virginia Lorraine Stewart remembers IHO in her will. We establish a health, wellness, and education fund and help pay for tuition, books, therapeutic classes, and more.

16. Andrew Fleck Child Care provides short term child care at IHO so mom can attend important meetings or receive counselling. Children love the activities in child care and always have great stories for mom when she returns!

17. Tragedy strikes in 2003. Eight years after rescuing IHO, Lyallen Hayes tragically passes away in a car accident. IHO's bright light is prematurely extinguished. But we persevere in the face of tragedy and are inspired to carry on by the strength of the women around us.

18. With the support of Soup Sisters, community members make and donate hundreds of litres of soup. The delicious meals provide an extra comfort during the cold months.

19. When Talia arrived at IHO, she had no source of income because her husband wouldn't allow her to work. Traveling to the Ontario Works (OW) office for financial support meant transporting her children through the city where she feared meeting her abuser. Thanks to the OW shelter designated worker, Talia can now have meetings in the comfort of her IHO home to establish a temporary source of financial support for her family.

20. It's difficult to set up your first home after the shelter. That's why donations from the Ottawa Basketeers are essential for residents. Laundry baskets filled with themed items provide a concrete means for women to make a fresh start free from violence.

21. Courtney's husband controlled all the household finances, and only after arriving at IHO did she learn she had not filed taxes for the last four years. A dedicated volunteer, Maryanne, comes to the house to meet with Courtney and assist her in filing her taxes. Thanks to Maryanne's dedication, Courtney is eligible to receive GST rebates and the child tax benefit.

22. Mealtime is an unnecessary stress for our residents, so we hire a Chef to prepare nutritious and delicious communal meals. She reduces the demands on residents, while also helping with nutritional education and preparing cultural dishes.

23. The Social Housing Registry of Ottawa has recently created a new priority status for women in danger so they do not have to wait the typical five or more years for housing. Stephanie has been at IHO for six weeks when she receives "special priority" status. She's overjoyed because she knows she will be moving to affordable, independent housing within weeks.

24. An amazing volunteer, Jennifer, begins what becomes years of donated time when she arrives with all the supplies to learn how to paint watercolours. Residents show off their artwork to staff; they can't wait to hand their masterpieces in their new homes!

25. The statistics on violent relationships among youth are staggering. In collaboration with other social services and schools, we get involved with In Love and In Danger, a program to address dating violence and unhealthy relationships among youth. At a conference, groups of youth come together for a dynamic and interactive day of learning. They develop action plans and strategies to take back to their schools. Youth are engaged as part of the solution to the problem.

26. After a harsh winter, we're loving summer weather and everyone is in the mood to celebrate. We throw some burgers on the BBQ and put out a sprinkler for the kids. Our annual summer BBQ is born.

27. The Children's Aid Society (CAS) and workers in the violence against women (VAW) sector have come together on the CAS-VAW project. They are coordinating their efforts to best meet the needs of children and their mothers who are living with violence.

28. After 33 years on Lebreton Street, the home no longer meets our accessibility needs. Thanks to the effort of Executive Director Karen MacInnis, we build a new home that opens in 2012. We have grown to a 30 bed facility with all the space we need for both residents and staff.

29. We always try to make kids' birthdays special, and we're helped by the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation who provides birthday kits so we can provide birthday cakes and celebrations on special days.

30. SafePet sets up a network of foster homes for pets while women are in shelters. It keeps the animals safe and makes it easier for women to come to IHO when their whole family will be safe.

31. Madison was 4 when she arrived at IHO. The family brought a few clothes, but had no time to gather Madison's stuffed animals. Community donations allow us to purchase new toys for Madison that help her to feel safe enough to sleep through the night.

32. While staying at IHO, Martine participated in a safety workshop held by Women's Initiatives for Safer Environments (WISE). Soon after, she was being followed while driving. She remembered her safety tips and sought help at a nearby store. The store staff called police, who arrested her abuser in the parking lot. Martine feels the safety information she received saved the lives of herself and her children.

33. The Leacross Foundation provides us with a grant to help beautify the shelter. With their help, we hang artwork on the walls and make IHO not only a safe space, but also a beautiful space.

34. We receive a call from our local school. A man has been calling claiming to work for CAS and trying to locate a child who resides at IHO. The Principal calls us, and with a Child & Youth Counsellor they plan to keep the child safe and contact police. We're grateful that our local schools understand our residents' need for safety.

35. The generosity of our community never ceases to amaze us! Pavilion Food Bank now offers food hampers to women leaving IHO so they have some essentials in their pantry at their new homes.

36. A donor calls; she has won a 3' chocolate bunny and would like to give it to the kids for Easter. On Easter morning, 20 kids tear apart the largest chocolate bunny they have ever seen!

37. Janine's abuser has been moving her around the province. He is physically, financially, emotionally, and sexually abusive. He forces her to work at strip clubs. Her counsellor sits with her as Janine realizes she has been trafficked. We are receiving specialized training and working closely with police because human trafficking is a reality in our city.

38. MCSS introduces shelter standards to guide the shelters throughout Ontario. These standards will support VAW emergency shelters in providing consistent, high quality services to women and their dependents across the province.

39. Over the past 40 years we have seen a multitude of dedicated staff. Thank you to every one of the staff who have contributed to making IHO the incredible shelter that it is today!

40. In the years to come we will continue to be a support to our community. We will continue to offer a safe haven to women, to educate the public, and offer innovative services and programs to better serve women in need. We will continue to empower women and hope to reach our ultimate goal of an end to violence against women.

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