Although it’s been nine years since the women who manage the ‘Chez Doris’ women’s shelter first began to hold their annual tea time fund raising party, last Sunday’s party was a stellar event that included a million dollar check amid the tea, the muffins and the open-faced salmon sandwiches.
“With the passing of Carole – my beloved wife – and our former professional success, I felt a growing responsibility to give something back to the community,” said retired Montreal businessman Andrew Harper. “Not only did I want to contribute to an organization that provides a lot of help for the weak and the helpless...but I also invite men and women who want to make a difference to invest in this organization (Chez Doris) that plays such a big role in our society.”
Decades after Chez Doris first opened its doors in a tiny second floor apartment full of second-hand furniture above a corner store in Montreal’s Little Burgundy, it’s still provides a safe place where poor and desperate women can go find shelter from the storm. Decades later, a lot has changed but the numbers still define a grim tale about what it’s like to be hungry and poor – especially when you are a woman on the streets of Montreal.
As over 25 000 women showed up at the center over the past year, numbers indicate that a majority of the center’s clients already used its wide variety of services that include everything from a hot meal to providing emergency shelter for beaten women and children who are on the run from an abusive spouse. According to Marina Boulos-Winton, the center’s executive director, the needs for women in difficulty continue to grow in downtown Montreal.
“Recent increases in the numbers of clients are due to asylum seekers who are turning to Chez Doris for basic necessities such as clothing, hygiene products and items they need to start a new life for themselves and their families in Montreal,” she said.
As a front-line worker on the city’s anti-poverty campaign, Boulos-Winton believes that little, (or nothing) can be done about urban poverty unless something is done to provide housing for the city’s poor.
“We’re probably going to use the money to help establish the credibility we need in order to set up some kind of emergency shelter,” said Boulos-Winton. “Of course, it’s going to take some time, but you can be sure that the money is going to go a long way towards turning that idea into a working reality.”
Aside from the nearly 200 people – mostly women – who attended the afternoon party, Québec ministers Kathleen Weil and Geoff Kelley made an appearance as did Montreal MP Marc Miller. The center’s silent auction offered up a tasty selection of wearable goodies as did Tina the Mitten Lady who made some serious money selling hand-made mittens to all of the center’s friends and supporters