BESS Sets Women Up for Success

BESS class

Interval House takes a holistic approach to the goal of ending violence against women by placing women’s empowerment at the centre of its support services. The fact of the matter is that a woman who escapes abuse is not only healing wounds, she is re-building her life from scratch.

After surviving unspeakably traumatic experiences, women who leave abusive relationships will encounter a series of hurdles on the road to peace, healing and independence. The greatest challenges—psychological, emotional and practical effects—often stem directly from the abuse they’ve endured. Many survivors may have no savings, unstable housing, and low self-esteem; they might be isolated from friends and family, experience feelings of powerlessness, and lack essential workplace skills.

Decades ago, Interval House staff saw the need for a program that addresses the unique barriers that abused women face when seeking employment. They heard from survivors that financial dependence was one of the reasons women stayed with their abusers. The path forward was clear: women needed more than an emergency shelter to break the cycle of violence for good. The question was: how to get there?

In 1998, the BESS program (Building Economic Self-Sufficiency) was born to help address this complex problem and continues to evolve to maximize the long-term impact on the lives of women and children who escape abuse. The program allows women to discover (or often re-discover!) their skills and competencies; they learn to write a resume and cover letter, conduct a job search, prepare for an interview and develop life skills like doing taxes and balancing working with parenting.

BESS continues to reflect the culture of innovation at Interval House, a modern trailblazer in the shelter movement. The program is built upon the belief that when women leave Interval House they must be able to achieve financial security, a home in a safe neighbourhood and the chance to develop a sincere belief in a brighter future ahead.

BESS BY THE NUMBERS - IN 2015

  • 39 women graduated from the BESS program
  • BESS women wrote 58 resumes and dreamed big with 39 vision boards
  • 69% of BESS graduates found stable jobs