Women’s shelter looks to upgrade and better serve community


A lot of people have trouble finding hope nowadays. Especially when the ones they turn to for support are the one’s taking it away from them.

However, no one is alone in this world, they just need to find the right people to help them find hope again and fortunately, there are a lot of people willing to help.

Durham Regional Police respond to an average of 14 domestic calls a day.

Nestled in the supportive City of Oshawa and standing proudly at 30 years old, Denise House, a shelter for abused women and their children, is helping the victims of these domestic calls.

Denise House takes in women who have experienced many types of abuse including physical, verbal, and psychological. However, according to Sandra McCormick, the executive director of Denise House, the media does not always see things from the client’s point of view.

“No disrespect, but mostly what we see in the media is the more sensational, graphic circumstances that happen,” she says, “and rightly so is that it should be there to raise awareness but what gets lost in there is that we see many, many women come and they’re so emotionally and psychologically abused that it’s just as damaging sometimes, if not more so damaging, than the physical side of the abuse.”

The staff at Denise House work to find out the best way to help each individual woman and they dedicate their time to helping these women become strong and feel more secure in their community once again.

“The best way to describe a family coming in or a woman coming in, [is] she’s really just starting on a journey to leave and find ways to take herself back out into the community so that she’s safer and happier and more fulfilled in her life,” says McCormick.

Every woman who comes to Denise House comes voluntarily. She also has the opportunity to bring her children regardless of age or sex. However, Denise House only has 27 beds for these families. McCormick hopes to see Denise House expand to a larger building in the next three to five years. With the building being so old it’s hard to do anything around accessibility. Currently, there isn’t the space to meet ongoing provincial standards such as an automatic door opening. “We have a moral obligation to provide our services in an accessible way,” says McCormick. The shelter has already had two major renovations but McCormick hopes to see expanding numbers with the next renovation.

With the renovation, it is also expected to bring both locations of Denise House under one roof. The second location has staff that work outside of the office with women in the community. The location also has a donation centre. The donations from the community go to the shelter and the women. The donation centre is set up like a store where the women from the shelter can go and pick what they like or need at no charge.

Unlike today, there wasn’t as much awareness and community support on the issue of domestic violence when McCormick first became involved with the shelter, almost 30 years ago. She came with an educational background in administration. “30 years ago there (weren’t) the courses and the colleges and the universities that there are now,” McCormick says. “In fact, I don’t know how women became inspired 30, 35 years ago, other than I think just as it is today, many people — men and women — feel that no woman or any individual … should have to live life in fear of physical harm or emotional harm.” McCormick believes more people, especially young people, are becoming aware of the issue and are also becoming more involved and committed.

Although more people are becoming more aware, domestic violence is still a difficult subject to understand from the outside. “It’s very easy to judge and say ‘well I wouldn’t take that, I wouldn’t stay, I wouldn’t…’ and fair enough but I think we should always caution ourselves politely that we never can predict what we ourselves will do in any situation until we’re in that,” says McCormick. However, with the involvement of the community, educational programs, and places like Denise House, we are one step closer to understanding domestic violence.