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Local Women in Crisis celebrates 45 years of serving our community

Organization hopeful that in-person fundraising events, services and public education programs can return as COVID-19 pandemic-related closures wind down
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The Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis has been providing vital services to women and children facing domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking since 1977.

This year marks the organization’s 45th year of providing a safe haven to women and children in our community. 

Services at Women in Crisis range from an emergency shelter (Marianne’s Place), housing and family court support, a sexual assault centre for women who have experienced sexual violence, an anti-human trafficking program and a rural program for women living in Wellington County.

The programs and resources available through Women in Crisis are 100 per cent free, funded largely through the government and partially through community fundraising efforts.

With alarming statistics concerning violence against women, there is a critical need for organizations like Women in Crisis.

51 per cent of Canadian women over the age of 16 have experienced at least one incident of physical/sexual violence and one to two women are murdered by a current or former partner each week in Canada.

“On average, we see over 1,000 women per year, and our crisis lines respond to over 3,000 calls per year,” said Sly Castaldi, Executive Director of Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.

Last year alone, 81 women and 63 children stayed at Marianne’s Place (emergency shelter). It is always at maximum capacity. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exasperated the needs of those facing violent and unstable living situations.

“Staying at home doesn’t work for women in abusive relationships or kids in abusive homes or people who struggled with addictions and mental health issues,” Castaldi said. “That is a really hard strategy for people who are struggling.”

Coming out of two years of government shutdowns and uncertainty as a result of COVID-19, Castaldi says the pandemic opened a lot of people’s eyes to the reality of homelessness and violence against women. 

“The pandemic made it so you can no longer ignore the gaps in the system,” Castaldi said. 

It was also an incredibly challenging time for organizations like Women in Crisis. Beyond the difficulty in keeping staff and residents safe in a congregate living setting, the organization also had to suspend its volunteer program in order to limit contact and exposure. 

Operating without volunteers for the last two years has been difficult, Castaldi explained, but Women in Crisis is now accepting applications for its revamped volunteer program.

Despite the hardships faced by non-profits during the pandemic, Castaldi expressed immense gratitude for the generosity the Guelph community showed during these uncertain times.

“Guelph always seems to come through for the organizations in town,” Castaldi said. “People reached out immediately when the pandemic started to see how they could help.”

Guelphites came together to donate masks, hand sanitizer, food and funds to the organization.

“We never felt alone,” Castaldi said. “The community was there with us walking hand-in-hand.”

Looking to the future, Women in Crisis is hopeful that it can continue its public education and fundraising efforts as the province continues to reopen.

On June 24, Women in Crisis and Stepping Stone will be recipients of Shark Sandwhich’s charity show at Fixed Gear Brewing Canteen. Tickets are $20 and all proceeds will help to fight the battle against homelessness in our community.

More information on the concert can be found here.

To learn more about services provided by Women in Crisis, click here. If you are in crisis, call 519-836-5710 or 1-800-265-7233.

To make a donation or learn how you can volunteer to help, click here.

Riley Smith, Community Cares team

About the Author: Riley Smith, Community Cares team

Riley is a Communications Specialist and member of the Village Media Cares Team, whose mission is to create meaningful, long-lasting and positive change in the communities we serve.
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