In our community, women often find themselves lost and confused, outcasts of our abusive, male dominant society. Chez Doris, a women’s day shelter located in the middle of Montreal, gives women over the age of 18 a second chance. Their mission is to provide social services, education and practical help to get women back on their feet all the while assuring their safety.
Doris, a homeless woman, looking for a way to survive in the streets of 1974 was on the waiting list for a homeless shelter in Montreal. On November 3rd, the remains of Doris’ body had been uncovered, an abandoned wheel of a car, the sole weapon of this massacre. Proof of rape, abuse and neglect surrounded her corpse. This touching story warmed the heart of many civilians who were instantly inspired to create Chez Doris, a safe haven for all homeless women in Montreal. Nearly 30 years later, Chez Doris still stands strong, with over 38 298 meals served and 1417 visits to the Clothing room.
All women in difficulty over 18 years old of any ethnicity are welcomed to join their clientele. Every day over 75 women visit the Chez Doris centre, 6-5% of the women are in between 18-35 years old, 76% are in between 36-64 years old and while 18% are 65 years old and older. The various profiles of the women include French, English,, Asian, European and other. Of those races French people occupy the majority cliental of Chez Doris, with 43%. English are next with 26% , Inuit’s with 10% etc.
The list of genuine acts that Chez Doris has committed is endless. From protecting a woman who had moved to Canada from Russia with merely her abusive husband to comforting a recovering addict who had lost her children. One recent story of Chez Doris’s kindness is how they helped a young mother get back in touch with her child. Bridget, was a young mother, she had her daughter at the ripe age of 17 and was forced to leave her home when she refused to abort her precious baby. The father of her child had abandoned responsibility and the brave girl had to create a life for both her and her daughter at such a young age. 6 years into her emancipation, Bridget grew depressed and alone, she was working two jobs and still could barely afford to support her family. It wasn’t long before alcohol abuse became a solution, and then drugs. And then prostitution to support those unhealthy habits. Bridget would work her jobs in the morning and then sell her body at night, telling herself that she was doing it for her daughter. However, when the alcohol and drug abuse compelled the government to relieve custody of her daughter, Bridget knew that she would not be able to live like this. Nine years later, Bridget was 2 years sober but still missing an important part of her life, her daughter. Chez Doris took it upon themselves to get in contact with the daughter and allow Bridget to slowly reconnect with her offspring. Although Bridget does not have a house, and still has yet to see her daughter, you will always see her smiling, so appreciative of the way Chez Doris changed things for her.
Chez Doris has had a huge impact on the Montréal community. Instead of donating money like most philanthropists would do, citizens of Montreal respond to Chez Doris by actually donating clothing, materials, toiletries and other products. Although the charity greatly appreciates these donations, the women appreciate them more. Every day four women at a time are brought down to the clothing room to choose clothes and other donated necessities.
Its reputation stands for its strong integrity and ability to give disadvantaged females a chance to escape the despairs of their life and focus on positive social activities. The women who visit Chez Doris are always more than willing to participate in Bingo games, movie nights, Card Games, computer time etc. If Chez Doris received the 5000$ grant from YPI, they would definitely spend it towards new activities for the women and improving the activities they already have. Also they would invest in expanding some of the facilities in order to not have to reject women from the shelter.
Their short term goals are to continue to fundraise and try to reach new goals. These goals include expanding services and meeting innovative clientele needs. Chez Doris is unlike other leading charities in Montreal because instead of questioning and judging women, they aim to retract underprivileged females from their lifestyles and entertain them. Although merely a day shelter, Chez Doris impacts citizens by rightfully returning their purpose in life. Eventually, the organization would like to expand and even convert into an all age shelter. These benefits however can only be met when their priorities are covered.
The reason why Chez Doris is just a day shelter is not only because they do not have the finances, organization, facility or volunteers but also because night shelters kick women out during the day, leaving homeless women with no place to go. Chez Doris offers a day program which offers services that night services can’t or won’t provide.
Being a non-profitable organization, Chez Doris relies on their dedicated volunteers and generous donators for success. Granted the government presents some money but not enough to put a dent in the many expenses that are associated with running a charity. Their major sponsors are Centre Aid and La Ville de Montreal however they also receive support from Rio Tinto Alcan, Proxim, Desjardin, Ultramar, Ford etc.
Chez Doris is known for its unique ability to create interesting and financially beneficial fundraising events. Generally these events are aimed at the upper class members of society, tempting them to visit their charity and donate money to the cause. The organization hosts events such as; night of raquette and jazz, open movie nights, cocktail nights etc. Events are often a blast and attract many paying guests.
15-20% of Chez Doris’s money is spent on activities for the charity; gifts for the girls, games, events, movies etc. On the other hand, the expenses of the 15 employees who work at Chez Doris occupy approximately 5 – 10 % of the income. The rest of the money is put towards necessities, such as building maintenance, food for the women etc.
As previously stated, volunteers are a huge part of Chez Doris’s accomplishments. All volunteers at Chez Doris need to pass a basic interview to ensure that they’re compassionate verify their age and are completely stable. Volunteers must be social, respectful, caring etc. Currently, over 70 volunteers reside at this organization. The centre puts papers in colleges and community centres to attract volunteers. However, they don’t need to advertise help more than that because the reputation of Chez Doris urges the community to take part. Volunteers and student helpers are often asked to answer phones, clean up crafted areas, organize the clothing room, monitor computer room, create toiletries baskets and be an active listener to the women. Volunteers, being extremely appreciative are publicly acknowledged for their contribution. Every year a ‘soirée’ dedicated to the volunteers out of appreciation is held.
In conclusion, Chez Doris is a very useful part of our society and we should encourage its development and support its acts.