In this week’s blog post, we’re highlighting one of the amazing companies involved in our MENTAL WELLNESS BOX project.  With the theme of Mother’s Day in mind, we curated products from across North America, specifically reaching out to companies with a mental wellness/mental health component to their company.  

The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie
has been providing shelter and support services to abused women and children since 1981. Approximately 1,000 women and children are assisted by the agency annually. In addition to shelter services, counsellors are available 24 hours per day to respond to calls from women seeking information, support, counselling, or shelter. 

The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie provides emergency shelter 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Their shelter can accommodate 27 women and children; each family has their own room and shares communal living space with other families. The shelter accepts self-referrals and referrals from community agencies, law enforcement, and other shelters and social services. There are also community services available through The Safe Pet Program for women who want to take their pets with them when they leave.   

We spoke with Katie Taylor, Development Manager of The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie for the interview below.



JENNIFER:  Hello, Katie.  I’m so glad we were able to get the chance to chat today.  It is such an honour to have you here, and I’m so thankful that The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie is receiving the cash donation from our MENTAL WELLNESS BOX - Mother’s Day edition.  To get started, could you tell us more about The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie? 

KATIE: Hi, Jennifer.  Well, we are so thankful too!  The Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie provides a safe refuge and emergency support services for abused women and their children in its commitment to end the cycle of violence.  This year marks 40 years The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie has been providing shelter and support services to abused women and children.  The agency consists of a 27-bed crisis shelter along with outreach services onsite.  In addition to shelter, staff provide individual and group counselling, legal information and support, court support, information about violence against women, referrals to other community and social services, and public education in the community.

JENNIFER:   What an amazing resource for women and their children who are in need of these services.  It must be such a difficult time in their lives, so to have somewhere to go and seek this kind of support is life changing, I’m sure.  Obviously mental health is a big part of this.  Can you tell us a bit more about The Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie’s goals regarding mental health?

KATIE:  Abuse, whether physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual, can have long-term effects on your mental health.  Trauma can affect how you feel about yourself and how you relate to others.  Women who have gone through abuse or other trauma have a higher risk of developing a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Trauma and abuse are never your fault.  You can get help to heal the physical, mental and emotional scare of trauma and abuse.

JENNIFER:  So very true and we are still learning how trauma effects a person, which is just mind blowing.  Can you tell me a little bit about some upcoming projects or collaborations that The Women’s & Children’s Shelter of Barrie has on the horizon? 

KATIE:  Yes, we do.  We currently have two funded programs operation under The Women’s & Children’s Shelter of Barrie.  The Women’s Advocacy Council is a WAGE funded program, and its goal is to advocate for advancement, increase opportunities, equality and freedoms for all women and girls through social movement, awareness and democratic activism.  To lead initiatives to close the gender gaps of women and girls in the Barrie and surrounding areas.  These initiatives are based on five pillars that are impacting the gender gap in Barrie:  Economic Security, Education, Leadership, Health and Security.  The Council will advocate for measurable, sustainable and positive changes in the status of women in Ontario.   

We also have our Violence Prevention Program.  This is a community-based outreach and awareness supporting youth ages 12-18 years old in the Barrie and surrounding area, which is funded through the OTFThe Violence Prevention Program strives to offer educational opportunities for youth that shift the engrained systemic attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence and discrimination in our communities.  By fostering beliefs that support the development of healthy social behaviours and relationships, we aim to build a healthier, safer society for everyone. 

JENNIFER:  These programs sound so amazing and SO much needed in our community. What an important piece to our society.  So, I’m wondering what made you say YES to being a part of our MENTAL WELLNESS BOX?

KATIE:  The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie is a feminist organization that recognizes the many oppressions that women face both locally and globally.  Women have experienced and continue to experience interpersonal, social and systemic abuse.  They have less access to educational opportunities, information, and community resources and are more likely to live in poverty than men in our society.  Women are under-represented in corporate and government structures and over-represented in low paying, low status jobs.  Immigrant, Indigenous, and Francophone women face additional barriers as do women with disabilities, women living in poverty, elder women, and women from the LGBTQ community.  We have a lot of work to continue and trusted community partners and supporters certainly help.  We are honoured to have the opportunity to partner with MARNIE & MICHAEL’s MENTAL WELLNESS BOX as your core values align with our beliefs.  Of course, as a fundraiser it’s always welcoming to receive the donations but any opportunity to shed light on gender-based violence and on mental health is the real win!

JENNIFER:  I’m smiling right now because if my Mom was still with us, she would be so thrilled to be reading this interview right now - with an opening line like that! And yes, I agree 1000% -- this is our mantra as well.  It’s been such a hard year with COVID, and I imagine you are seeing an increase in clients at the shelter.  The more we can share the work The Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie is doing, the better.  Speaking of the global pandemic, what are the tools or coping strategies that have helped you get through this unprecedented time? 

KATIE:  Putting myself as a priority in front of those that depend on me.  I’m useless to them if I’m stressed or suffering, anxious or annoyed.  If I prioritize my needs (exercise, time alone, finishing a project, etc.), I am able to be fully present and commit myself to the needs to my loved ones in a more meaningful and appreciative way.

JENNIFER:  This has been a big lesson for me as well this year.  Drawing boundaries and protecting them is such an integral part of our mental health.  Really great points – thank you.  And thank you again for being a part of our MENTAL WELLNESS BOX project.  I will do anything I can now, and in the future, to support the work The Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie is doing.  And I look forward to following The Women’s Advocacy Council and The Violence Protection Program.  Thank you so much for joining me today Katie.