Yellow Brick House honours past donors

George Redak, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Yellow Brick House, an organization providing services and programs to women and children suffering from domestic abuse, recently unveiled its donor wall.

Although honouring past donors was the focus of this event, it was also a reminder that without continued support, there is no future for this life-saving organization. The event also marked the 45th anniversary of Yellow Brick House.

Throughout these years, the shelter beds, cribs and services provided would not have been possible without the generous donations from the community.

The 120 names inscribed on the wall represent individuals and organizations who have made a minimum donation of $7500 to Yellow Brick House over the last 45 years.

“We wanted to show our appreciation on one hand. On the other hand, we wanted to demonstrate the dire need to continue to support us,” said Lorris Herenda, Chief Executive Officer of Yellow Brick House. “Domestic violence has increased by 30 per cent during the pandemic nationally. In Ontario alone, we had a 53 per cent increase in homicides due to domestic violence.”

Herenda has been with the organization since 2004. In that time, her impact has been significant, almost doubling the scope of the agency in the delivery of shelter services, counselling and supportive services.

With two emergency shelters and a 24/7 crisis support line, Yellow Brick House offers a complete roster of services including group support and counselling for women and children, family court support, immigration coordination and transitional housing support.

“We are asking the community to continue supporting us,” Heranda said. “A night of safety for a woman and her child costs about $250. The families come to us with just their clothes on their backs. They have no other possessions.”

All the funding goes towards helping women and children start rebuilding their lives. The average length of stay of a woman and her children is eight weeks. The beds, cribs and services provided by Yellow Brick House are life-saving. And without sustainable funding from the government, the community’s support is crucial.

According to Heranda, public funding for women suffering from domestic violence has always been underfunded. The services that were available 15 years ago are virtually the same, however, the population of York Region has nearly doubled in that time.

These issues were magnified during the pandemic, as the two shelters were forced to lower their capacity by nearly 30 per cent in order to ensure the safety of the women and children.

Last year, Yellow Brick House secured funding to expand the Markham Shelter and renovations are almost complete. Capacity will return to the pre-pandemic numbers of 41 beds and 10 cribs. Of those beds, only 25 are publicly funded.

“Our community is fantastic, but we are also facing challenging economic times, we are facing donor fatigue,” explains Hearand. “We are advocating on all levels to come support us and make sure the shelter beds stay open.”


Photo: Yellow Brick House, an organization providing services and programs to women and children suffering from domestic abuse, recently unveiled its donor wall.

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