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Reflections from Year One: YWCA Canada’s NESS Fund

Published on 22/08/2023 by YWCA Canada

July 18th, 2023, marked one year since the launch of Canada’s first-ever national fund providing financial assistance directly to survivors of gender-based violence. YWCA Canada’s National Emergency Survivor Support (NESS) Fund began its operations serving over 30 communities in partnership with 12 YWCAs across the country.  

One of the major barriers to women and gender-diverse people escaping intimate partner/domestic violence is a lack of financial resources. YWCA Canada’s NESS Fund responds to this prevalent and pressing need by providing survivors’ access to immediate financial support. The NESS Fund provides women, gender-diverse people and their families experiencing intimate partner violence and current residents of emergency shelters with financial support to leave abusive situations and begin their healing journeys. 

Flexibility is a cornerstone of the NESS Fund. The NESS Fund has been accessed for a wide range of urgent expenses including housing, utilities, storage fees, furniture, moving, and travel, making it possible for survivors to begin rebuilding their lives. Moving beyond initial support, frontline staff also connect recipients to wrap-around services including counselling, healthcare, employment, and legal assistance as requested.  

In just 12 months, 626 survivors have received over $810,813 of direct financial assistance.  

Addressing survivors’ urgent and unmet needs when escaping violence has had life changing effects for the recipients of the NESS Fund. Just 6 months into the Fund’s launch, 90% of recipients had reported that NESS funding was a primary reason they were able to leave violence. In the words of survivors, this fund has not only provided finances in times of need, but also “moral support with hope for a brighter future”, and the ability to “feel safe and free”.  

After receiving assistance, one recipient stated:  

“This is an amazing program and I wish all women could have access to this. I feel fortunate to have ever even heard about the program. The housing crisis almost broke me but having secured housing for my daughter, I know this feels like all the hard work I’ve put in has been worth it… Because it’s not ever only about me anymore it’s about me and empowering my daughter.” 

Operating the NESS Fund has underscored the connection between the housing crisis and the gender-based violence epidemic in Canada. The single most common request for support has been towards payment of rent and utilities. These forms of financial support have proven to be crucial for women, gender diverse people and their children as fleeing violence can often lead to or intensify housing instability, homelessness, and experiences of discrimination. The lack of access to safe and affordable housing in Canada is another leading barrier for survivors seeking safety. 

While we are grateful to be able to tangibly support survivors through the NESS Fund, YWCAs across Canada recognize the work that is yet to be done and the increasing need for a permanent solution to the barriers of escaping violence that women and gender diverse people encounter. The 12 YWCAs currently dispersing funding are experiencing a much higher demand than there are funds available. While fund distribution is being supplemented by in-kind donations, this does not go far enough to serve the critical financial needs survivors face. The urgency we have witnessed does not even include survivors who reside outside of regions where the NESS Fund operates. All survivors of intimate partner and domestic violence should have access to support, regardless of postal codes or provisional funding.  

YWCA Canada’s NESS Fund was created as a temporary solution to gaps in services felt by countless women and gender diverse people across Canada. As the housing crisis deepens and gender-based and intimate partner violence is being declared an epidemic, the need for permanent government support is more urgent than ever. We need coordinated action across levels of government to address the financial barriers of escaping violence. 

We are grateful for the support of our inaugural partners in making this work possible. Thank you to The Slaight Family Foundation, Aviva Canada, The Torrid Foundation, and our incredible community of individual donors. By donating, you are standing with survivors.  

Donate to the NESS Fund: https://ywcacanada.ca/?form=nessf 

For questions and inquiries, please contact projects@ywcacanada.ca  

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