profiles in excellence

Haven House

she deserves it

CEO Mary Zilney of the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region recalls the oft repeated phrase that moved our community to help those living in abusive relationships, “Here... take my couch.” It all began with women helping women. And now, everyone is chipping in to support women in crisis through the Haven House fundraiser. For over 35 years, Women’s Crisis Services has been providing a safe haven to women and their children escaping abuse in Waterloo Region.

Police Chief Bryan Larkin reports that calls about domestic abuse are the 3rd highest volume of calls they receive. “At 6,100 last year, it’s likely only a fraction of actual crises, and most of those are calls made by concerned neighbours, relatives and kids. It’s the tip of the iceberg.”

There are many women who never call. There are many more who don’t understand that safe alternatives are available for them and their children.

Help is Here

Haven House is so much more than a 45-bed shelter. The new facility will focus on a nurturing environment to help women and their children in Waterloo Region gain the confidence needed to build new lives and safe futures. It will enhance and facilitate community partnerships directly affecting education and intervention and serve as a catalyst to help break the intergenerational cycle of domestic abuse. It prepares them for a safe and productive future.

Volunteers hear many stories of victims of abuse and sometimes come to the realization that their own experience was very similar. Brenda Halloran is an example. “It still shocks me, that I was in an abusive marriage and didn’t even see it. But when I began to hear other women’s stories, I recognized the signs in my own life. The pattern was there, all so subtle, but it was an unending pattern.

“I always thought it wouldn’t happen to me, with a good family, good education and good job. But the escalation of alcohol use and psychological abuse brought it to light for me and I escaped with my daughter just as the abuse was becoming physical.” Luckily, Brenda received full loving support from her family who lived nearby. She was able to pull herself up and seek a position where she could help others by sharing her story. Women listened in awe as Mayor Brenda Halloran told of her own abusive relationship. As more women spoke up, we all began to understand that it can happen to anyone and that achieving one’s dreams is possible once you have the freedom to choose your future.

Increasing Need

Calls for help from women in distress are increasing as they learn there are choices available for them to escape from abuse. The demands for safety and transformation are increasing. That’s why Haven House is expanding; to provide not just a bigger shelter but also services that help women find a safe future for themselves and their children. Based on the successful example of Anselma House, Haven House will help support more women in need, all guided by the social profit enterprise, Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.

Sara McLennan asks, “How much would you contribute to keep a woman and child safe? If everyone reading this story... like you ... decided to help with a contribution of $50 we could meet the goal of completing the new facility without a mortgage. But even $10 is a good positive step in the right direction. And it’s easy to do the right thing, right now, online at: