The women behind the Mission’s users

Compassion, empathy, listening, openness to others

Have you ever wondered about the women who provide the services for Montreal’s homeless women at the Old Brewery Mission? It turns out they’re extremely strong and filled with hope. We caught up with them to talk about what they do to help others on a daily basis and how they make a difference to Montreal’s most vulnerable women.

Around-the-clock services

Misery doesn’t keep to a schedule, which is why the staff at the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion are on standby 24/7. Because it’s not uncommon for a crisis to break out on Christmas Eve, the support teams who work with the homeless are poised to swing into action whenever they’re needed. The women who end up at 1301 de Maisonneuve E. can show up at any time—be it in the middle of the night or just before supper time—and when they do, they’re always greeted by a warm and friendly team willing to listen to them and offer them a safe place to rest and a bite to eat. But those are just the bare necessities, and unless we can meet basic needs, anything more is impossible.

The Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion is the largest women’s shelter in Canada, with 55 emergency and transition beds. Director Florence Portes is supported by a team of workers, intervention counsellors, supervisors and coordinators, and together they step up every day to help the women who turn to the Old Brewery Mission in their time of need.

 

No matter how dire the situation seems or how difficult the challenges appear, there’s always a solution. Some click easily into place, while others are a real puzzle, but every one is made possible because of the joint efforts of our team members, our partners and the women themselves—everyone working together to take in and support the women and, as often as possible, celebrate their successful return to the community. — Florence Portes, Director, Women’s Services

 

Twenty years helping homeless women in Montreal: Now, that’s something to celebrate! For more information about the benefit gala that took place on May 7, visit the Mission pour Elles website.

 

Challenging and rewarding work

The employees in Women’s Services offer homeless women a sympathetic ear, a warm welcome and psychosocial support, and that takes no shortage of strength and courage. Their ability to keep the faith for these women is a key factor in staying motivated in the long term. As a team, the employees discuss the best strategies for helping and supporting the women at their own pace, in a way that best meets their needs. Ultimately, their goal is to make sure that each woman at the Mission has access to clean, affordable and safe housing, allowing her to one day return to the community. We firmly believe in the principle of social mixing and refuse to relegate the homeless population to just one part of the city. This is no small feat given the cost and availability of housing units, yet the team still manages to make it work.

 

When you work for the Mission, you become part of the solution to a major social issue. I believe it’s possible to put an end to chronic homelessness in Montreal. While I’ve definitely seen tragedies play out, I’ve also witnessed women turn their lives around with remarkable strength and resilience. Helping women get off the streets isn’t something you can do alone—it takes an entire team of people. — Mélanie Galipeau, former coordinator, emergency and transition services for women, Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion

 

The face of women’s homelessness

Each woman who turns up on our doorstep has a story and a distinctive personality. As a team, it’s our duty to help each one of them with kindness and compassion. Homelessness is often the product of other underlying problems. The team of workers and intervention counsellors who work with these women are confronted with a range of mental health issues and addiction problems, and it’s not uncommon to see women who are dealing with several issues at the same time. Other women have suffered sexual, physical or financial abuse, and our role as a team is to pair them with community or public partners who can back us up in giving these women the help they need. At the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion, empowerment isn’t a word we take lightly—we truly want to give women power back over their own lives.

 

The diverse mix of women we see and their very different life stories is what makes our work so interesting. Knowing the difference that I can make in someone else’s life is both one of the most rewarding and one of the most daunting parts of my job—it’s a tremendous responsibility. — Cynthia Lamoureux, supervisor, Women’s Services, Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion

 

Join our team

Think you have what it takes to become part of our team? You believe in our Mission and have experience counselling adults?

Find out more about our employment opportunities and apply online on our Jobs page, or send your CV to Crissie Robert, HR Recruitment Agent, at crobert@missionoldbrewery.ca.

 

Every day that we go to work at the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion, it’s with the intention of helping or making a difference to these women. But, really, they also change us by helping us to become more compassionate, open‑minded and patient on a daily basis. — Megan Martin, worker at the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion