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Talking from the Heart – Raine Liliefeldt on how YWCA changes lives

Published on 05/11/2019 by Raine Liliefeldt

Thanks to the work I have done at the YWCA, I have met incredible women of all ages at the shelters and housing programs across the country.

Many women come to the YWCA in such critical points in their lives; without the YWCA and your support, their circumstances would be so much worse.

There are some people who come into your life, and you can’t help but take notice. They have a presence and energy that cannot be dismissed. Liz is that kind of person. I first met Liz when she stood up in a community meeting and challenged every one of the speakers and the local politicians that were in the room.

Her confidence was striking; she was able to stand up in front of complete strangers and speak up for herself and the other women in her community. I was a young woman at the time and found her skills and passion inspirational.

Liz was living at a shelter and transitional permanent housing residence for single women. I did not know the circumstances as to how she came to live there. In my work, I began to see her often, almost daily, as I passed her on my way into the building where I worked, and she lived.

We would have quick conversations about the weather. Liz would ask me a question about current affairs, comment on my outfit. Once, she proudly introduced me to a family member on their way out to a community event.

Then, after a time, I noticed that I wasn’t seeing her. One day I ran into her family member who said that Liz had sent her away. The next time I saw Liz, she did not look like herself at all, she had lost lots of weight, and had not been coming out of her room, she was not meeting her basic needs, not eating, not sleeping well.

The mental health support workers at the YWCA were there for her during her depression. They worked together to implement different strategies that helped her. At some point, I started seeing her again. Without those additional supports, she would not have gotten back on her feet.

If she were living in a market rent apartment in the community, I can’t imagine her maintaining her housing after months without work or even getting the professional support from the health workers at the YWCA.

Liz has now moved into a permanent supportive housing apartment in the community. After almost a year, I saw her recently walking a puppy. I was so excited to see this, now she is not only back to her healthy self, but she has extra energy to care for another creature, being a witness to that is just amazing. She recently shared with me that for the first time in 40 years, she is not on any anti-depression medication. She says she has grown so much, she does art every week and credits the YWCA onsite supports for this growth, especially the nurse practitioner.

Housing services for women in need are scarce in our communities. I can not imagine what would have been of Liz without the support of the housing community the YWCA offered her.

Advocating for investment in these services and supporting local organizations to do this work is urgently needed, and the demand is growing. So asking our federal leaders to prioritize investment for women’s housing, especially supportive housing is essential, we can not continue helping women like Liz if we do not advocate for their need.

Thank you for supporting the YWCA Canada advocacy efforts by signing our petitions and donation to this vital work.

About Raine: As the Director of Member Services and Development at YWCA Canada, Raine is responsible for a number of mission impact projects including DigitalSmarts, a national digital literacy project, In Good Company, focussed on women’s economic empowerment. She also coordinates national organizational meetings, capacity building and training events.

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