Naomi Centre restores young women’s dignity
Temporary shelter is warm, inviting, safe, and focused on securing long-term housing options for clients
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Newfoundland and Labrador’s only young women’s shelter is restoring dignity, one choice at a time. The Naomi Centre, operated by Stella’s Circle, is an eight-bed shelter where women age 16-29 can find safe and short-term housing. The house is warm and inviting. The front steps are painted like a pride flag, and inside, there is a bright and colourful dining room. The living room has comfortable couches, and the centre decorates for Christmas during the holidays. The average length of stay is 32 days, Stella’s Circle marketing manager Laura Ivany says. LONGER STAYS Director of housing services Gail Thornhill said this number is not surprising given the current housing crisis. In 2021-2022, the average length of stay was 18.6 days. The Naomi Centre aims to set up their clients with safe and affordable long-term housing, but limited housing options prompt longer shelter stays. “We want people to secure stable, long-term housing as quickly as possible, but that’s challenged by our current housing market,” said Thornhill. “Thirty-two days is not bad. We would love it to be less as long as the outcome is positive. We’re not about asking people to leave the shelter so our numbers look good. “We want people to be leaving the shelter because they’re having a successful outcome, and the most successful outcome for us is stable housing,” she said. PRIVACY PRIORITIZED In the meantime, the Naomi Centre provides young women with a safe place to land and take a breath. It starts by giving them privacy. Each woman has their own bedroom equipped with a Smart TV and Netflix. “All the young women who come here to stay get their own space because it’s so important to their recovery, to their well-being, to their sense of safety,” Thornhill said. The women are then provided everything they need for a comfortable stay. This includes clothing, personal hygiene products like shampoo, soap and skincare, and makeup. Ivany says offering choices helps restore dignity and empower women. “It’s the dignity of having those things to make you feel good about yourself,” said Ivany. INTENTIONAL, VARIED WORK The staff are highly trained at the Naomi Centre. Kristina Wakeham, the program manager, describes their work as intentional and varied. “The Naomi Centre works to set the women up for success. That could be anything from teaching them how to operate a washer and dryer or clean a bathroom, if they’ve never cleaned one before,” said Wakeham. The staff have helped women print resumes and fill out forms. Wakeham said sometimes they might get a call at 2 a.m. because a woman is walking alone at night. In that case, they will stay on the line until they get to where they are going. “Sometimes it’s really direct support in terms of their need right now. And sometimes it’s just an easier place for them to print their resume off and stay connected or get a meal,” said Wakeham. “While we don’t offer therapeutic counselling, we’re not doing treatment here, the work that we do is therapeutic,” said Thornhill. SUCCESS STORIES The Naomi Centre has numerous success stories. They call past clients formers, and many stay connected. For some, the staff are viewed like family. “Every Tuesday, we have a supper that formers are invited back for. Sometimes when we’re doing groups or programming, formers will be invited to that as well,” said Wakeham. “They’ll call us for lots of different things. When they get married, when they have babies, when they get a new job, when a life change happens. “We do get lots of good news stories from the young women who’ve been connected here for so many years,” said Wakeham. 100 HOMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS As Christmas approaches, Stella’s Circle is fundraising for its 100 Homes for the Holidays campaign, which will build 15 supportive housing units for women on Military Road. Thornhill expects to see some Naomi Centre clients live in the new facilities, but their success starts at the Naomi Centre, where the ability to choose an outfit, use mascara, style their hair, or talk to a support worker is restoring confidence and dignity in Newfoundland and Labrador women.