Creating Opportunities for Survivors of Abuse

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An abusive relationship can have long-lasting effects on a survivor’s ability to thrive. Left with the scars of abandonment, broken self-esteem, shame, and trauma, moving on can be a daunting prospect. It can feel practically impossible, especially without support.

Interval House exists to provide the support women need to escape abusive relationships. Founded in 1973 as the first shelter for abused women and their children in Canada, the organization provides emergency shelter and crisis counselling for women and children fleeing abuse. But the shelter is just one aspect of the work we do. It covers the immediate needs of those escaping family violence. In order for women to leave their abusive partners for good and end the cycle of violence, they need assistance in achieving independence. 

That’s where Interval House’s Building Economic Self-Sufficiency program (BESS) comes in. It serves as a bridge from the point of immediate crisis to an independent future and it provides women with the tools they need to move forward, on their own two feet. BESS is comprised of a series of free workshops that women can complete at their own pace, in whichever order makes the most sense for their needs. It helps women survivors of intimate partner violence secure housing, find employment, access benefits, get counselling, and more. The program empowers women to address the unique barriers they face as survivors of abuse, so that they can overcome obstacles and truly achieve self-sufficiency.

The work we do at Interval House to elevate women overcoming a history of violence would not be possible without our fearless partners and supporters. Our BESS program leads to positive results for our clients, thanks in part to employer partners like The Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO).

“Clients are always more successful when they get a job with one of our employer partners, versus when they apply for jobs they find on their own,” says Fazia Mohammed, Community Programs Manager at Interval House. “That’s because our partners see them as more than just regular applicants; they are aware of the various barriers that some women have and they choose to work with these women with eyes wide open.”

Mohammed also explained that when clients are referred to employer partners, counsellors are able to prepare the employers for the particular needs and challenges of each client and they are able to prepare the clients for the corporate culture and structure they can expect with prospective employers, which removes some of the anxiety around job searching.

Since first partnering with FRPO 15 years ago, many clients have secured housing with FRPO landlords and 10 BESS clients have secured jobs in the rental housing sector. These have included positions such as Property Manager, Data Analyst, Leasing Agent, Marketing Associate and Rental Administrator. These clients have found their jobs challenging and fulfilling. They have been able to launch their lives and find stable ground after years of turmoil in abusive homes.

“Becoming a Leasing Agent has changed my life,” says one former BESS client (whose name has been withheld for confidentiality).  “I see so many possibilities. So many doors have opened through networking and making new connections. I feel so relaxed and confident. I have the best boss ever!”

A thoughtful and empathic employer can go a long way towards helping a woman turn her life around. We are grateful to FRPO for connecting us with a network of such employers and giving Interval House clients a lifeline. Our brave partners amplify our call to end violence against women and to strive for true gender equity.

If you are interested in becoming an employer partner with the BESS program, please contact Interval House Job Developer, Jo-Anne Cameron at 416-924-1411 ext. 229 or jcameron@intervalhouse.ca.