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Seven years ago, when Stephanie was pregnant with her second son, the abuse began. Her husband’s verbal insults, explosive outbursts and physical threats went from occasional to daily occurrences. Stephanie knew that she and her boys were in danger.
She made an attempt at escape. But he was everywhere, tracking every movement, silencing her and isolating her from friends and family. Finally, last fall when her youngest son turned 6, she knew things had reached the point of no return. Home was no longer a place where her heart was safe; home had become the place of her heartbreak.
“It was too dangerous,” says Stephanie. “I couldn’t do it anymore.” And so she found the courage, took her boys and fled to Interval House.
11 months later, Stephanie is still waiting to move into her own apartment. The waiting lists for subsidized housing in Toronto are long – over 65,000 households are currently waiting – and though women and children fleeing domestic violence are given priority status, even this list is long at over 1,500.
Ashley Lawrence, Interval House’s Resettlement Coordinator, works with residents and recent graduates of the BESS (Building Economic Self-Sufficiency) program to secure housing so families like Stephanie’s can take that final step to independence. Her work serves a dual purpose: women who obtain housing of their own have a much better chance of staying free from their abusers; and when residents move out on their own, Interval House has space to receive the next woman crying out for help.
To ease the housing crunch and the long wait times, Interval House is launching a pilot project that will provide rent supplements to families like Stephanie’s so they can afford apartments in the private market. In addition to getting moms and families on the list for subsidized housing, Ashley also works closely with landlords willing to participate in a program where rent is geared to income for up to a year.
Stephanie has just become a licensed mortgage broker and is grateful to Interval House for helping her change careers and get ready to start a new life with her sons. The shelter’s support means she has also been able to ensure her two “baseball crazy” sons can play in city teams as they make this transition. Still, the wait for housing is difficult. “I’m anxious to find a place so we can move forward with our lives,” she said.