Meet Natalie
December 14, 2021

Meet Carol

Now that spring is here, it feels like a weight is being lifted.

There’s a sense of relief and reprieve. 

A sense of hope.”

This past winter was one of the most difficult winters I have ever experienced in my eight years of working at Cornerstone Housing for Women.

But now we can begin to focus on how to heal as a community. We can focus on trying to house people again. We can focus on bringing back programming and resources for women in our city.

Sadly, we have lost too many lives to COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic. With the Omicron variant, we had to isolate multiple times because of outbreaks. We’ve seen a huge rise in women struggling with their mental health. Plus, our city came under siege which made life very difficult for residents and staff in our downtown core.

We continue to grieve and heal together but knowing you care means the world to the women I support and to our staff.

I remember that first day of working on the frontlines of the pandemic. Everything was a rush.

We went into work without a second thought and did what Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Inner City Health guided us to.

We gowned up, we wore goggles, gloves, and masks. We didn’t take any chances. It was scary.

I remember being pretty paranoid on that first day too, thinking to myself “did I wash that handle I just touched? I can’t remember, I’ll wash it again just in case.” You second-guessed everything you were doing. It was a rush, and scary all at the same time. We wanted to make sure the women were protected from COVID-19 and make sure we kept our families at home safe too.

The increased isolation for women was very difficult. Going from doing activities and meals together, to having to eat your meals in your room and keep to yourself was hard.

What kept many of the women in our housing residences going was knowing that through the isolation and lockdowns people like you were there for them and that better days were coming.

Knowing you care gives a woman hope, healing, and housing.

We couldn’t provide the essential care and supports to women in need without donors like you. Knowing you have a community of support makes a huge difference in the life of a woman at risk of homelessness. Everyone wants that sense of belonging and community.

I try to be that community to the women we support. You might not realize it when you donate, but you are a part of our community. Your support gives a woman a sense of belonging. 

I remember that feeling of wanting to belong in a new country and city with a new language and traditions. I immigrated to Canada in the late 1980s from Guatemala. We left behind our community and culture.

I am lucky that I had a supportive family as we came here together.

I now have a new community of support that I am grateful for, and it’s one of the reasons I love working at Cornerstone. I’m proud to be able to give back to women who need support because when I needed support someone like you was there for me.

In my early twenties I became a single mom of two young kids.

It was small things that were difficult, like being able to get groceries or being able to talk to someone in my first language Spanish.

I am grateful that I received support from a service agency that was able to bring me essentials like food, diapers, and formula. It made a huge impact on my life and my kids’ lives. I truly felt supported. It gave me the stability and sense of belonging I needed to find my path in life.

That’s when I knew I wanted a job where I could also give back to women who might be struggling. 

I had the opportunity to go to Algonquin College for a social service worker diploma. That’s where I heard of the work being done at Cornerstone to help women. I began by volunteering, then I became relief staff, and now I’m a permanent staff member.

Cornerstone works hard to make sure everyone feels included and cared for. 

Knowing you care can help give women in need stability, hope, and a sense of belonging. After years of increased isolation due to the pandemic, women more than ever need to know they are not alone.

Over the last eight years of working in the housing sector, I have seen how important it is to provide a home with a community of support to a woman in need.

I remember one woman, Alaina, who lived with us for over a year at our MacLaren House. She struggled with her mental health and never feeling like she belonged.

At first, she was shy and nervous but warmed up to everyone quickly. Now, she has moved to a home of her own outside of Cornerstone, she has a job, and a dog.

She comes back to visit us often but I’ll never forget when she told us that Cornerstone’s housing residence changed her life, “I truly felt like I fit in and found myself. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel judged for having mental health issues. The staff was always there when you needed them.”

It’s moments like this that make you realize how important our work on the frontline is, and how important housing and community supports are.

When neighbours like you care, it gives a woman hope, healing, and housing. 

If this pandemic has shown us anything it’s that anyone can be one paycheck away from needing social services and housing supports.

Women’s homelessness rose significantly in our city over the past two years. No one wants to be homeless.

We have had women who immigrated to Canada like me, we have had nurses come through our doors, we have had early childhood educators need housing support, we’ve had women fleeing violence.

With you by our side I know we can help more women at risk of homelessness find housing and access the supports they need. As a community, we need to work together to provide more affordable and supportive housing for women in our city.

Please consider sending in a special gift to Cornerstone, so we can continue to provide housing and the necessary support, stability, and services to make it a home for women in need.

Thank you for caring about women at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness.

You are a part of the solution to our housing and homelessness crisis. 

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