Awareness and Remembrance, Personal Stories

What do Women’s Shelters Really Need?

January 17, 2017

Shelly Yeo, Assistant Executive Director at WCH/SAC in London
Shelley Yeo is the Assistant Executive Director at WCH/SAC in London, Ontario where she has worked, and been a part of much change over the past 26 years.

Community awareness, development and coordination within a relational practice are of particular interest to Shelley. She loves spending time with her grandchildren, practicing yoga & meditation, cooking, entertaining, travelling, watching her garden grow and stepping out of her comfort zone on occasion. While doing all of this, Shelley continues to challenge herself and others with maintaining the vision of a world where we are all free to make personal choices and to live in peace.

Give us a call if you have more questions 519-642-3003.  Every little bit helps.

We are grateful to Legal Aid Ontario for sharing this blog post on their website and for translating it into French. 
Access the French version here.

What do women’s shelters really need – money or stuff?

That’s a question we often find ourselves answering, whether from friends, family members, or others we meet in the community.  And the answer is: both. Women’s shelters really need money AND stuff. The money helps us keep the shelter doors open around the clock to provide program services free of charge.  Last year alone, Women’s Community House (London, Ontario) provided services to 5,947 individuals through shelter, outreach, children’s group programs, family court support, transitional housing, helpline, walk in support and more.

three volunteers holding donation boxes

When it comes to “stuff”, women’s shelters would not be able to operate without the donations-in-kind that communities provide. Women’s Community House has what we call a “Needed Items List” and each month, we post it on the website so that people can see what the specific needs are for that period of time. Often those items are: laundry soap, paper products, coffee, cereal, unused personal needs items and all of those things that we all use in our households every month and on a daily basis – we just need large supplies of those things. You wouldn’t believe the amount of coffee and cereal a shelter goes through even in one day, so every little bit helps. Check with your local shelter to find out what they need most

Women and children often arrive at shelters with few personal items. Like many other shelters, we try to make their stay a little easier by providing care packs for everyone who walks in the door. Care packs are put together by volunteers and include new pajamas & slippers, underwear, socks, personal needs items like shampoo & toothbrushes, and a teddy bear and game for each child.  It’s a simple gesture that makes a huge impact on those who are seeking shelter from their storm. We could not do this without donations received from our community friends, so it is all of you who are offering this gift.

Drawing of people holding hearts up

The gently used items category is always where we have the most questions, so here’s the thing….  Most of the women we serve are between 18 and 50 and we have children of all ages, including infants and older boys. This is true for most shelters. Teen boys the size of grown men are in the shelter with their moms and we sometimes have a challenge providing them with their clothing needs. Everybody needs the basics like pajamas, socks and underwear. They also need casual clothing that is seasonal. So for instance, in the winter, we need winter wear. And it’s always good to ask yourself whether or not you would wear or use something you are donating. If the items are not in good condition, we do not pass them along to the women and children. We love new and gently used, as do many other shelters. Many shelters, such as ours, are not able to accept used baby equipment or furniture due to health and safety reasons. And most shelters do not have room to store large furniture items. The Women’s Community House, along with most other shelters, loves to receive gently used linens, blankets and towels and new pillows. There is nothing like a warm, comfy bed at the end of a tough day.

So, while the answer might not be as straightforward as expected, it is quite simple. Both monetary donations as well as item donations are highly needed and much appreciated by shelters. New or gently used items are generally preferred, and basic necessities and clothing are always in need. Check out your local shelter’s website or contact them to find out what items they are most in need of at any given time.

We hope this helps the Money or Stuff questions for you.

What Do Women's Shelters Really Need Infographic


Donations box, Donations jar, Text that reads What do Women's Shelters Really Need