Being a kid in a shelter during the holidays

kids' clay sculpture of a winter scene

The holiday season is a bittersweet time of year for the children at Interval House. They are living in a safe place out of harm’s way, with new friends and newfound freedom to relax and just be kids. But even with the relief of living in a new and safer home, their everyday lives have still been disrupted by the change. 

The beginning of the holiday season can be hard. This time of year is a reminder that many of their holiday traditions will be a different from what they’re used to. And lots of kids worry that Santa won’t be able to find them in their new home at Interval House. 

Because it’s a tough time for children in the shelter over the holidays, their mothers and the staff do everything they can to make the season special. The families go on many excursions, including skating, the Santa Claus Parade, and a holiday celebration with the Toronto Police. The park near Interval House is always available for children who want to go out and play in the snow. Inside the shelter, activities are held for the families: a sing-along of carols, cookie decoration, and writing letters to Santa. There’s even a visit from Santa himself! Volunteer groups come in to decorate the living area and put up a Christmas tree, as well as organize a party and dinner for the residents.

December sees an influx of families seeking shelter over the holidays as the escalating stress of the season can lead to more violence at home. These new residents are just settling in and might not know what to expect for the months to come. But the other children will usually help the new residents settle in and get used to life here. 

Kids often worry that they won’t get any presents while they’re at Interval House. Thanks to the friendship of donors and volunteers, however, these children will be surprised on Christmas morning with special gifts donated from the community. Our Toy Cupboard is a room filled with new donated toys where residents and former residents go to pick out presents for their children. They’re wrapped and put in the rooms on Christmas Eve while the kids are sleeping so they will wake up to new toys in the morning. 

Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated at Interval House of course, as the families here represent a wide variety of cultures and beliefs. We celebrate all cultural holidays by sharing stories, food, and providing whatever individual residents and families need throughout the year to celebrate their traditions. This allows children here to keep in touch with traditions shared with their mothers and start to create new ones as they build lives free from violence.

If you are interested in helping to make this holiday season a special one for the women and kids at Interval House, contact Sasha Elford at selford@intervalhouse.ca, or 416-924-1411 ext. 238.