At yoUnlimited we believe that all women have the right to believe in unlimited possibility for their lives. We believe that every woman needs to be seen and appreciated for who they are, and encouraged to be all that they can be. Sometimes, this can be a challenge and we encourage members of our community to give and share where they can.
While participating at a Women in the Woods event, our founder, Carolyne Taylor, learned of the Third Stage Housing at the Victoria Women’s Transition House. This is supportive, transitional housing for single women aged 45 to 65 who have left abusive relationships. There are 22 affordable one-bedroom suites where women can stay for up to three years. Programming supports residents in becoming independent and self-reliant, through counselling support, activities and life skills training.
Since November 2015 we have been holding our Christmas Giving Event, where members of our community bring and wrap gifts to provide each woman currently participating in this program an overflowing bag of gifts.
Members of our community also volunteer and provide programming similar to the yoUnlimited offerings, with the difference being that we bring the programs right into the complex where these women live. We also have sourced services such as tax preparation, and stocked a library full of donated books from our community.
In 2017, we have a goal to raise the funds to support the S.A.F.E. (Self-sufficiency and Assets through Financial Education) Program which provides life goal setting, critical financial education, and a safety net for women living in our supported housing. The funding sunsets as of March 31, 2017 and we are looking to our community to make donations, and VWTH has also applied for grants to help us keep the program afloat.
Self-sufficiency and Assets through Financial Education (SAFE) Program
SAFE is a unique financial literacy and asset-building project to meet the specific needs of residents of Harrison Place, the third stage transitional housing at Victoria Women’s Transition House. Participants are single women, ages 40-65 who are abuse survivors, many of which are experiencing other challenges such as mental health barriers, chronic disease, and high risk of homelessness. All are financially vulnerable.
We believe that through the provision of financial education, we can help the women we serve gain control of their finances, and increase their ability to plan and set goals thereby increasing their ability to access and participate in both employment opportunities and secure housing options. Through interactions with peers and workshop leaders, a financial planner and other experts, as well through contributions to a matched savings program, the women will improve their financial skills and knowledge and will develop practical skills in budgeting and planning. This will allow them to take concrete steps toward a more secure financial future.
Many of the women have debts and/or have claimed bankruptcy, are on income or disability assistance, and often need to access food banks each month. The project aims to achieve residential stability, a sense of security and financial knowledge and to encourage self-efficacy, goal setting and community involvement. It is clear from anecdotal information shared by these women that financial stability gained through education, supports and a savings program enormously enhance their quality of life.
The Program spans 18-months with participants attending monthly workshops delivered in the first 10 months of the program. Also included in the SAFE Program are 10 hands-on community kitchen workshops regarding food security and budgeting as well as sessions in personal goal setting and planning. Regular monthly meetings with the VWTH SAFE Program Coordinator (a specialized older women’s counsellor) and a matching savings challenge, complete the Program.
SAFE Program delivery is by representatives from by Vancity and topics include:
- Basic Banking
- Basic Budgeting
- Filing Taxes
- Credit Cards, Secured and Prepaid
- Unwanted Loans
- Debt Smarts
- Building Credit
- Identity Theft
- Fraud Prevention
- RRSP’s, TFSA’s, RESP’s
- Starting a Business
- Understanding Contracts
The designated staff person from Vancity is also available to answer any questions regarding financial literacy that the participants may have, either at the workshops or by appointment.
As well, SAFE participants increase their knowledge of food security and increase their food budgeting skills by attending 10 community kitchen workshops hosted by Shelbourne Community Kitchen. Here, the women learn how to prepare nutritious foods on a limited income, learn about food resources, cook a meal, take food home and have access to the food pantry. Most participants continue their involvement with Shelbourne Community Kitchen after the program ends.
Participants each have the opportunity to participate in a goal setting process called PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope). This is a 3-4 hour process that is co-facilitated by the Program Coordinator and another VWTH staff member. PATH is action-oriented and the women leave with a graphic representation of their goals with an action plan, timeline and supports to assist in making the goal a reality.
Over the duration of the program, the SAFE participants meet one-to-one each month with the Program Coordinator to discuss their monthly budget, financial goals, barriers etc. Each woman commits to saving between $5.00 to $30.00 each month and this is matched 2 to 1 at the completion of the program. Each participant develops a spending plan that must lead to increased self-sufficiency and must be approved by the advisory committee before matched savings can be received.
Outcomes of this program for the women participating include increased financial literacy, reduced debt, increased financial stability, increased self-sufficiency, increased ability to manage expenses and increased confidence in the ability to manage finances.