During last week’s big turkey lunch, many of the women who showed up for the big ‘Chez Doris’ Thanksgiving party had a lot to say about what the shelter did for them and what it means for them to find a safe and friendly place for women in the heart of the city’s downtown core. For some, it’s little more than a chance to get a decent meal, a shower and a clean set of clothes. For others, it’s a chance to get clean, stay sober, and finally get the chance to build a new life. But for Marina Boulos-Winton, it was a big day because the party gave her the chance to introduce and thank Andrew Harper — Montreal’s Million Dollar man — for his million dollar donation that’s bound to make a big difference for a lot of women who no longer expect all that much out of their lives.

Thanks to Harper’s money, Boulos told The Suburban that the shelter is now in a position to purchase a second building that could provide up to 20 women with the shelter they need to make it through the night. As the city’s recent census indicates that up to 25% of the city’s homeless population are women, she believes that it’s time people begin to recognize how poverty affects everybody in a city where a lot of women are left out on the street with nowhere to go.

‘There’s always been a need for some kind of shelter in the downtown core,’ said Boulos.’As a day shelter, we see it every day when we close because a lot of these women simply have nowhere to go once it gets dark.’

As ever, the shelter continues to offer destitute women a wide range of services that make all the difference in the world when you have no place to call home. Based upon a quick look at the shelter’s October schedule, a woman can make an appointment to see a lawyer, get her feet looked at, see a psychiatrist, and get her hair done. Other services include regular AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, a collective kitchen for Inuit women, some computer time and Bingo for those cold afternoons when there’s really nothing else to do.

In order to better serve their Inuit clients, every effort is made to accommodate both their cuisine and their culture. Just before last week’s lunch, Mena Sequaluk was busy as she began to carve into a recently delivered haunch of frozen caribou meat. While some of her friends were happily chewing on bits of raw meat, Sequaluk told The Suburban that she would probably ‘...fry up a few steaks and use the rest to make soup or some stew.’

Although Boulos admits that Chez Doris has already earned its place amid the city’s growing social welfare infrastructure, ‘...it would be impossible to do all this if we didn’t have the community’s support.’

While the Harper donation will continue to do a lot to help raise the bar as to what Chez Doris can do for the city’s destitute women, Boulos also mentioned that she’s looking forward to the day when the people at Chez Doris can help provide at least a few women with both their own address along with a key to their own front door.

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