YWCA Saskatoon Launches $19M ‘Hope Lives Here’ Campaign to Expand Crisis Shelter

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YWCA Saskatoon is set to dramatically increase its capacity in a major expansion and renovation of its facility. The independent organization recently announced a robust $19 million ‘Hope Lives Here’ campaign, which will finance the extensive project at the existing building.

The YWCA has long opened its doors to women and children for a multitude of reasons, often operating at maximum occupancy, as conveyed by YWCA Saskatoon CEO Cara Bahr. The described reality necessitates swift room turnovers, with spaces only available between cleaning operations.

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As part of the project, the YWCA aims to amplify the potential of its Crisis Shelter and Residence. This second-stage housing facility offers enduring support to women and children, spanning 18 to 24 months with a focus on breaking abuse cycles. The facility will gain a significant reinforcement to its current capabilities, with an addition of 71 beds, and 35 new dwellings. This will provide crucial space for women to remain close to their children throughout their stay.

Beyond increased accommodation provisions, the campaign also aims to finance essential maintenance works at the YWCA, including a new roof for the facility.

In 2022 alone, the YWCA had to decline entry to 4,253 women and children – a statistic that was intolerable to Ina-Lou Brownlee. Recognizing the need for additional support for women in violent situations, the Brownlee Community Foundation promptly donated $2 million to the campaign.

With Saskatchewan suffering the highest rate of domestic violence among all Canadian provinces, the expansion project comes as a much-needed aid. For women experiencing abuse, leaving their tormentor usually entails seven to eight instances of violence and the lack of secure, alternative housing further complicates their situation.

Councilor Hilary Gough underscored the urgency of the problem during the announcement, stating, “I believe strongly housing shouldn’t be a privilege – it should be a right”.

Under the Rapid Housing Initiative, funding pledges include $6.7 million from the federal government, $1.95 million from provincial coffers, and a $670,000 contribution from the city itself. Between government backing and the generous donation from the Brownlee Foundation, the campaign has succeeded in securing over $12.7 million so far.

According to Bahr, the positive impact of second-stage housing is proven, with over 90% of YWCA’s clients maintaining their tenancy after departure from the centre.

The ambitious expansion project is anticipated to reach completion by December 2024, targeting a 25% occupancy rate by then.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.