Interval House—the First Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Canada

Interval House—the First Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Canada

“It's important to engage in hopeful practices. We expect so much of women who are trying to leave abusive relationships—that they should have hope for the future. We have to do our work with hope too. Donors have their own reasons for believing in hope. It affirms the women’s courage.”

– Lynn Zimmer, one of the 11 founders of Interval House

When Lynn Zimmer volunteered for a women’s organization in the early 70s, she knew very little about domestic violence. As a participant in the women’s equality movement, Lynn believed that a woman should be able to leave a bad relationship if she wanted to. Lynn answered calls from mothers who were seeking help—women with no money, no jobs, and no place to live. She had to refer them to the city-run residence for WWI veterans—the top floor was for families.

“The thing that horrified us when we went to see it,” she says, “was that you had to line up to get a bar of soap.”

A small band of volunteers were committed to providing a crisis centre for women and children who were fleeing abuse—they knew it needed to feel like a home. They put up a sign on a bulletin board asking women to help get something started. With just a handful of committed supporters, Interval House opened in 1972 as the first shelter for abused women and their children in North America. 

Lynn remembers the outrage she felt when the local newspapers of the day referred to the residents as “runaway wives,” an expression that reflected an attitude of ignorance. Awareness about domestic violence has grown dramatically since then and women today are much more likely to find support—either at work, from their families, or from friends. What hasn't changed however is the pattern of abuse. Lynn says, “The steady stream of women and children who've experienced physical and emotional abuse is apparently unending.”

Lynn has dedicated her entire career to ending domestic violence, and says she continues to be inspired by the courage and risk-taking demonstrated by individual women. She says she is grateful for donors who stand beside organizations like Interval House, providing the security and confidence to exist, until the day they are no longer needed.