A Supportive Environment For Women


** By Carleton University Intern Emily Shoff

Happy International Women’s Day!  It is a day that represents pride, independence, strength, history and growth.  It is a day in which women and men reflect on how far women have come and what is yet to undertake on this journey.  To celebrate this day, I thought I would feature my visit to Cornerstone’s 314 Booth St. Supportive Housing for women.

Cornerstone’s 314 Booth St Supportive Housing is one of four Cornerstone support housing units in Ottawa.  It’s also their newest, established in 2011.  The other three locations include the Women’s Shelter, 515 MacLaren St. Supportive Housing and McPhail House.  Each house provides a varying amount of support, from emergency housing to intensive care.

The government often does not recognize women’s issues or see women’s shelters as a crucial investment.  The idea that equality has been achieved is debatable but not with the federal government.  Women are supposedly equal in today’s society and so the federal government use this as an excuse to cut funding to women’s services and initiatives.  As a result, women’s shelters have either been critically limited or have had to shut down all together.

Fortunately, in recent years, our multilevel government has come together to support 314 Booth.  Hip Hip Hooray!  It is a rare sight to see all three levels of government (federal, provincial, municipal) having collectively contributed time and efforts into this much needed facility.

There are 42 beds available at 314 Booth.  20 beds are given to senior women in need of specific long term care and 22 beds are offered to young adult women in need of affordable housing.  Cornerstone offers many different services at this location such as addictions counselling, mental health, HIV, Hepatitis C and more.   A key word at this residence is: ‘supportive housing’.  The on-site health care, group self-help workshops and community environment name this residence.

Yes, women have come a long way – we have the right to vote, we are in the workforce, and we have a better political representation today (shout out to Elizabeth May and Nicole Turmel).  There is a common trend lies among all of these points…support.  Women need support on the political, economic and social level.

Feminization of poverty”.  The term reflects how women are often the primary caregiver. They are more likely to stay in an unsafe environment where domestic abuse is present because of financial instability.  They are in the workforce yet they occupy the low-sector jobs.  They are not given the access to opportunity compared to their male counterparts.

Women are more vulnerable to poverty.

314 Booth and the other Cornerstone facilities provide housing, which is a much needed form of stability for vulnerable women.  Unfortunately, 10-15 women that 314 Booth must turn away every day (due to the residence’s full capacity), are expected to pay an average $750/month for a bachelor when Ontario Works only covers $600, or they wind up returning to their abusive homes or in some cases revert to the streets.  Affordable housing is a must.

Canada Without Poverty recognizes that women are susceptible to poverty.  We recognize the structural causes of poverty.  We see that women are vulnerable.  We recognize the single mothers, the battered, the lonely, the working poor, and the inequity.  Women’s experiences in society are unique.  Women need support – one fundamental point I learned from visiting 314 Booth.  Their needs ought to be recognized in order for equal opportunity to exist.