Refuge. Restart. Resettle.

War. Iraq. Divorce. Abandonment. Immigration. Abuse. Refugee.

These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I reflect on Mahnoor’s story. She came to Nisa Homes on a cold October morning with her two children and three suitcases. Her journey in life had taken her from war-torn Iraq to Montreal, and finally to Ontario. 

After having spent several weeks in various shelters and homes in the Greater Toronto Area, she reached out to Nisa Homes to see if there was a possibility of her moving into the home. Fortunately, we had a vacancy and arranged for her arrival for the following day. 

Her children, Muhammad and Mariam, were afraid of what was to come during their time at Nisa Homes. At past shelters and homes, they had faced abuse, both physical and verbal, not only from fellow residents but also from staff members. Mahnoor recalls arriving at one particular shelter where they refused to let Muhammad use the washroom due to it being “after hours”. He was forced to urinate outside of the building that night. 

Taking into account all of their past experiences with shelters and transitional homes, we were determined to help Mahnoor find a permanent residence, get her children into school, find a steady income, and help her get her immigration documentation together. 

As the months went on, the children began school and Mahnoor began studying for her citizenship test. After a failed attempt, she was finally successful and was overjoyed when she realized this meant she was going to be a Canadian citizen. With the help of external resources, we were able to relocate her to a city with a large Iraqi community who aided us in finding her an apartment and long-term employment. 

Mahnoor’s story is certainly not an exception. We have had several women come forward and detail their abuse and experiences in other shelters and transitional homes. After everything these women and children go through to end up in a shelter or transitional home, one would hope that the place they come to would be a safe haven for them. Many times, it’s not. Nisa Homes seeks to break this trend and be a temporary home for these women and children where they can heal, grow, and find the means to start afresh.